In November 2013, campaign group Rewind&Reframe launched their website that aims to challenge sexist and racist music videos as part of a joint project run by the pressure groups End Violence Against Women Coalition, Imkaan and Object.
The calling comes after music videos pushed out for music consumers viewing pleasure by artists such as Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Lily Allen and Rihanna have all come under fire for sexually exploiting women as well as other controversial content involved in their clips; some of which have been banned from TV stations because of their explicit nature.
Sure to spark up an ongoing debate which will see artistic freedom vs. lack of social responsibility be at the forefront of many heated arguments; music videos will either suffer as a consequence of campaigns set against them to ensure that viewers of a younger audience have age restrictions on the videos they can view or, the controversy will in fact catapult playback views out of curiosity and general interest.
Below is my own personal take on the top 5 most controversial music videos this year, based on controversial online buzz and popularity. Take a look and see if you agree with my picks:
1. Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell Williams - Blurred Lines
The video that accompanied Robin Thicke's smash hit 'Blurred Lines' serves in my opinion as the top most controversial video this year and recent times; with its subliminal message suggesting rape, critics such as Tricia Romano of the The Daily Beast suggested in her article that song trivialises sexual consent.
Thicke stated in an interview with GQ magazine that the Diane Martel-directed video was supposed to be funny and while trying to defend the nudity of the women in the video he said:
''We just wanted it to be as silly as possible. That way, the nudity isn't taken seriously.''
The song and video were later labelled as promoting unhealthy sexual attitudes towards women and it was suggested that the song helps promote rape culture and devaluing the worth of the female body.
In the unrated version of the video, various females can be viewed sashaying around topless in nothing but skin flesh coloured underwear, which is what caused the most uproar with the video alongside the nature of the song's lyrics.
Due to the escalated heights of its controversy, the song was later banned from being played at student events at the University of Edinburgh. Thicke found himself once again defending the song and declared the song was about his wife of twenty years - Paula Patton - and knowing that he was secure enough to know what she 'wanted form him'.
Perhaps if the song was about your own wife Robin, you could of executed the video a little better because several scantily clad women prancing around in your music video isn't too convincing nor the best representation of a 'strong' marriage.
2. Lily Allen - Hard Out Here
On 12th November, Lily Allen returned with her first single in three years and its video titled 'Hard Out Here'. The singer's comeback was welcomed with a lukewarm reception and divided opinions from fans and critics; due to the single's video that has been criticised for showcasing racist undertones.
In the video, Lily is backed by all black female backing dancers in leather swimsuit attire twerking and engaging in sexualised dance routines; often found in some hip-hop videos and it appeared to me that Lily was only picking apart a small fragment of hip-hop culture to devalue and mock at a mainstream level.
After receiving some online backlash shortly after the video's premiere, the singer took to her Twitter account to release a public statement regarding the video but stated it was not an apology as she felt like it would imply that she was guilty of something that she was not.
The video for me personally made for some uncomfortable viewing. The song was supposed to be a female empowerment record of some sort but yet still saw the singer degrading the same women she was trying to defend or 'empower' on the track?
Either way, being a supporter of Lily and her craft I was definitely left a little disappointed by the visual and felt she could have gotten her message across in a way that would of been seemingly less offensive by demeaning a culture that is much more than her own interpretation due to her lack of experience and understanding.
3. Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball
Prone to controversy this year, Miley's video for her pop ballad 'Wrecking Ball' has been given the dislike button by more than 800,000 YouTube fans, which is likely to be linked to the provocative nature of the clip and Miley's level of nudity which is rather inappropriate.
The wrecking ball in the video is supposed to be symbolic of the deterioration of a relationship but it seems Miley couldn't do this without swinging on the wrecking ball naked and in another scene; suggestively performs sexual acts on a hammer by licking the metal part, as well as rubbing it on her crotch area.
In leading British publication The Guardian, Michael Hann gave the video a negative reception stating that the video: ''Doesn't demonstrate a woman exploring her sexuality, it depicts a woman exploring the iconography of porn.''
In my opinion the inclusion of nudity in the video took away from the vulnerability that the song exudes and I found the over sexualised scenes unnecessary. While I'm all for artistic expression and freedom, I didn't see how it fit with the lyrical content and it came across as really redundant.
4. Rihanna - Pour It Up
Rihanna's video for 'Pour It Up' was released in October of this year and the video backs the song's concept which is 'strip clubs and dollar bills'. Although the video was not shot in a strip club, the video did have some strippers and saw the Bajan pop star herself take to the pole.
Of course, the video sparked up heated discussions as the subject matter did involve sex and materialism and displayed glamourisation of the stripper lifestyle.
Personally, I found this to be one of the least offensive videos of the year as the song did display a declaration of independence, due to the fact that Rihanna was bragging about her wealth and can be seen as a female empowerment type record by some.
It must also be noted that Rihanna has on several occasions noted that she does not consider it her responsibility to be a role model for young girls and parents should be monitoring what their children and teens have access to, so at least she's standing by her words and her craft.
5. Britney Spears - Work B*tch
Britney's latest video for her single 'Work B*tch' was banned from airing on television in the UK before 10pm because of bondage-esque themes on channels such as MTV and The Box who called for a clean edit of the video so that it could play on their stations throughout the day.
The singer can also be seen portraying a dominatrix routine and channels the erotic novel 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' which at times appeared to see the star engage in sadomasochism.
It was also reported that Britney's body had been digitally enhanced to make her body appear a lot thinner than it is in reality, straying far away from the slightly curvier body she had adopted post her two children.
While I have my own reservations on each video individually, at what point does artistic expression cross the line of becoming offensive and unacceptable?
As long as artists have control over the artistic directions of their projects, we the public have very limited control over the content that they continue to push out but it seems at though once a video is released and receives a public lashing, artists and publicists rush to save their faces with public apologies or formal explanations.
Controversy in music videos and the industry in general is what seems to keep some artists alive and I for one find it interesting that some videos such as those that posses 'sexual content' can cause such commotion against videos that display racism or scenes of violence and are written off as satire.
I personally feel that there will be no end to controversy in music videos, it's almost impossible but it will definitely be interesting to see how the industry and artists react to any implements that my be put in place with regards to viewing access of videos of explicit or indecent natures.
Carl Neufville is a music enthusiast who is a lover of reading, '90s fashion and television. A former graphic designer (who never quite mastered Photoshop) is now steering his career towards being a budding author and journalist. He also firmly believes that 'Everything happens for a reason' is probably one of the best mantras that he's ever heard and that's probably why he writes now. Follow him on Twitter!