Music has the power to evoke a wide range of emotions and connect with people in profound ways, but it's not without its controversies. From feuds and legal battles to scandals and public meltdowns, music has seen its fair share of controversial moments.
Here are ten of the most talked-about music controversies.
1. Taylor Swift vs Kanye West Feud
The feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West began with an infamous moment at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when West interrupted Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video, arguing that Beyoncé deserved the award instead. This incident marked the beginning of a long-standing feud between the two artists that would continue to escalate over the years.
In 2016, their feud reignited when West released his song "Famous," which contained lyrics referring to Swift in a derogatory manner. Swift condemned the song, claiming that she never gave West permission to use her name in such a manner. However, West insisted that he had obtained her approval, which Swift denied.
The feud continued to play out in the public eye, with both artists releasing disses aimed at each other. However, in recent years, the two have seemingly made amends, with Swift even presenting West with the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
2. Michael Jackson's Legal Battles
Michael Jackson was one of the most beloved and successful musicians of all time, but his legacy was marred by a series of legal battles and controversies. In 1993, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse by a 13-year-old boy. Although he was never formally charged with a crime, the allegations damaged his reputation and led to years of legal battles.
In 2005, Michael Jackson was charged with multiple counts of child molestation and other crimes, which resulted in a highly publicized trial. Despite the efforts of his legal team, Jackson was found not guilty on all charges.
However, the accusations continued to follow Jackson until his death in 2009. In recent years, the release of the documentary "Leaving Neverland" has reignited the controversy surrounding Jackson, with the film detailing allegations of sexual abuse against him.
3. Tupac and Biggie's Feud
The feud between Tupac and Biggie is one of the most notorious in hip-hop history. The two rappers were once close friends, but their relationship deteriorated after Tupac was shot five times in a robbery in 1994. Tupac accused Biggie and his associates of being involved in the shooting, which led to a heated feud between the two artists.
The feud continued to escalate, with Tupac releasing a diss track aimed at Biggie, and Biggie responding with his own track. The tension between the two reached a boiling point in 1996, when Tupac was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
Biggie was then murdered in a similar drive-by shooting in Los Angeles just six months later. Both murders remain unsolved to this day, and the feud between Tupac and Biggie has become a tragic and cautionary tale about the dangers of violence and rivalry in the music industry.
4. Chris Brown's Assault on Rihanna
In 2009, Chris Brown made headlines for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna. The incident took place after the couple left a pre-Grammy party and escalated into a physical altercation inside their car. Brown was charged with assault and later pleaded guilty.
The incident was widely covered by the media and sparked a public conversation about domestic violence. Rihanna, who suffered visible injuries in the incident, became an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and started a foundation to raise awareness of the issue.
The incident had significant repercussions for Brown's career. Several radio stations stopped playing his music, and he faced backlash from fans and fellow musicians. His endorsement deals were also affected, with companies like Wrigley's and Pepsi dropping him as a spokesperson.
Chris Brown took a hiatus from music and sought therapy and anger management treatment. He eventually made a comeback with the album "F.A.M.E." in 2011, but the incident continued to haunt his career, with many critics and fans calling for him to take more responsibility for his actions. Amazingly, over a decade later he remains an influential artist in the industry.
5. Eminem's back-and-forth with Mariah Carey
Eminem's feud with pop star Mariah Carey began in the early 2000s and was marked by a series of diss tracks and public accusations. The feud was reportedly sparked by rumors that Eminem and Carey had a brief romantic relationship.
Eminem then released a series of tracks that contained explicit and derogatory lyrics about Carey, including "Superman" and "The Warning."
Carey responded to the tracks by denying any relationship with Eminem and releasing her own diss track, "Obsessed," which featured a lookalike of Eminem.
The feud continued for several years, with both artists taking shots at each other in interviews and on social media. The public spectacle drew criticism from many fans and music industry figures, who saw it as a distraction from the artists' music.
6. R. Kelly Sex Abuse Scandal
R. Kelly, a Grammy-winning R&B singer, has been the subject of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse over the course of his career. The allegations first gained widespread attention in the early 2000s, when a video surfaced that appeared to show Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a minor. Kelly was charged with child pornography but was later acquitted in 2008.
In recent years, more women have come forward with allegations of abuse against Kelly. The allegations were detailed in a 2019 documentary series called "Surviving R. Kelly," which sparked renewed public outrage and scrutiny. Kelly was subsequently charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and abuse in several states, and he has been held in jail since 2019 awaiting trial.
The scandal has had significant consequences for Kelly's career, with several radio stations and streaming services removing his music from their platforms. Kelly has also faced backlash from fans and fellow musicians, with many calling for a boycott of his music. The scandal has raised important questions about the music industry's responsibility to address and prevent sexual abuse and misconduct.
7. Britney Spears' Mental Health Crisis and Conservatorship Battle
Britney Spears' mental health crisis and conservatorship battle has been one of the most controversial moments in music history. In 2007, Spears went through a public meltdown, which included shaving her head and attacking a paparazzo's car with an umbrella. Following this incident, Spears was placed under a conservatorship controlled by her father, Jamie Spears.
A conservatorship is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints a guardian to manage the personal and financial affairs of someone who is unable to do so themselves.
Spears' conservatorship has been in place ever since, with her father and a legal team controlling her life and finances.
Over the years, many fans and supporters of Spears have questioned the conservatorship, claiming that it is controlling and restrictive. The # FreeBritney movement, which started on social media, gained traction as more people became aware of Spears' situation.
The movement believes that Spears should be released from the conservatorship and allowed to live her life independently. In June 2021, Britney Spears spoke out in court, revealing the extent of the control her father has over her life and stating that she wants the conservatorship to end.
Her emotional testimony led to a huge outpouring of support from fans, celebrities, and the public, and the case has continued to unfold.
8. The Free U2 album
In 2014, U2 made headlines for giving away their new album, "Songs of Innocence," to every single iTunes user for free. While the move was intended to be a generous gesture, it quickly turned into a PR disaster for the band. Many people were outraged that the album was automatically added to their iTunes libraries without their permission, and the backlash was swift and intense.
Critics accused U2 of invading people's privacy and forcing their music onto unwilling listeners. The move also sparked a conversation about the value of music and whether or not it should be given away for free. While the band defended their decision, stating that they wanted to get their music to as many people as possible, the controversy continued to rage on.
In response to the backlash, Apple created a tool to allow users to easily remove the album from their iTunes library, but the damage was already done. The Free U2 album has gone down in history as one of the most controversial and ill-advised marketing moves in music history, a cautionary tale for any artist looking to promote their work in a big way.
9. XXXTentacion's Death and Drake's Involvement:
In June 2018, rapper XXXTentacion was shot and killed in his car in Florida. The murder sent shockwaves throughout the music industry and his fans, who were devastated by the loss of the young artist. Shortly after his death, rumors began circulating that fellow rapper Drake had some involvement in the killing, as he had previously been linked to a beef with XXXTentacion.
There are many lyrics that are speculated to be connected to the murder.
1. One piece of evidence cited by fans was the fact that Drake had allegedly referenced XXXTentacion's death in his music. In "I'm Upset," Drake rapped:
"SMS, triple X / That's the only time I ever shoot below the neck"
Fans saw triple X as a reference to XXXTentacion and his murder, which had reportedly involved a gunshot wound to the neck. However, the lyric could also refer to an explicit text message where Drake is "shooting his shot" with women.
2. After XXXTentacion's murder, Drake released the song "Mob Ties", which raised eyebrows due to the lyric:
"Louis bags, in exchange for body bags"
Louis was the brand of bag that was taken from XXXTentacion on the scene of the murder. The song's title, "Mob Ties", also raised suspicion about Drake's potential involvement with the mob in the crime.
3. Another lyric that raised eyebrows was from Drake and 21 Savage's song "On BS", where Drake raps:
"If he held his tongue on that live, he be alive again"
Many fans though this line was in reference to an Instagram sotry XXXTentacion posted before his death saying "If anyone kills me it was @champagnepapi", referring to Drake. While this may have just been a provocative statement made by a young rapper known for stirring up controversy, it certainly is an eerie connection to the tragic event.
Later in the same verse of "On BS", Drake raps:
"I never put no prices on no beef until we end this shit, I pay a half a million for his soul, he my nemesis"
This could certainly be interpreted as a veiled reference to XXXTentacion, as it suggests that Drake has a personal vendetta against someone and is willing to pay a large sum of money to have them taken out.
However, it's important to note that there is no concrete evidence linking Drake to XXXTentacion's murder.
It's also worth noting that, regardless of whether or not Drake was actually involved in XXXTentacion's death, he certainly benefits from any controversy surrounding the situation. The perceived "street cred" that comes with being associated with a high-profile murder could help solidify Drake's reputation as a tough and intimidating figure in the hip-hop world, along with the additional attention.
10. Lil Nas X's "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" Music Video:
Lil Nas X burst onto the music scene in 2019 with his viral hit "Old Town Road," which became the longest-running number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, it was his follow-up single "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" that stirred up controversy.
The music video for "Montero" featured Lil Nas X in various provocative scenes, including one in which he gives a lap dance to Satan. The video was widely criticized by conservative and religious groups, who saw it as promoting Satanism and immorality.
In response to the backlash, Lil Nas X defended the video as a way of expressing his own sexuality and challenging societal norms. He also used the controversy to promote his own merchandise, including a pair of "Satan Shoes" that were made in collaboration with a company called MSCHF. What's even more, these shoes had real human blood in each pair. Yeah, certainly peculiar.
The controversy surrounding "Montero" ultimately helped to propel the song to even greater success, debuting at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning critical acclaim for its bold and innovative approach to music and visuals.
Honorable Mention: Ashlee Simpson Caught Lip-Syncing
In 2004, Ashlee Simpson was scheduled to perform on Saturday Night Live, one of the most prominent television shows in the United States. Simpson was riding high on the success of her debut album "Autobiography," and was set to perform her hit song "Pieces of Me."
However, things didn't go as planned. When Simpson took to the stage, the wrong backing track started playing, revealing that she was lip-syncing. To make matters worse, Simpson's band began playing the wrong song entirely.
Simpson panicked and did a strange dance before walking offstage in embarrassment. For a comedic show like Saturday Night Live, the whole ordeal sure was hilarious.
The incident made headlines and turned into a major scandal, and Simpson was widely criticized for her lack of talent and authenticity as a performer.
Ultimately, music controversies, scandals, and conspiracies have existed for decades; and have been some of the most talked-about events in the music industry.
From the long-standing feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West to Michael Jackson's legal battles and Tupac and Biggie's tragic feud, these controversies have left a mark on the industry and on the public's consciousness.
Music has the power to evoke strong emotions and connect with people in profound ways, and while controversies are an unfortunate aspect of the music industry, they also bring attention to important issues such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the responsibility of artists.
Despite the controversies, music continues to be a powerful and transformative art form that has the power to inspire and connect people in meaningful ways.
If you would like a part two to this blog, leave a like on this post, or comment "more", and we will be sure to bring you another article dedicated to even more music controversies, because believe me, there are certainly a fair share.
Until next time!