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10 Music Publicity Stunts Gone Wrong

Madonna’s ‘Sex’-capade, Garth Brooks’ weird alter ego and other artist ploys that didn’t go off as planned

Publicity; Stunts; Gone Wrong; Rolling Stone; List; Madonna; Vanilla Ice; Elvis Costello; 50 Cent; Kanye West

Mandatory Credit: Photo by BEI/BEI/Shutterstock (1103821b) Madonna and Vanilla Ice Truth Or Dare Party


"If you want to get known as a singer," Sammy Davis Jr. once said, "you hire five sexy chicks and let them fight over you onstage and for the cameras. That's publicity, man." Pop culture's hunger for the publicity stunt hasn't changed much since Davis's day. Case in point: the revelation this week that the indie-dance band Yacht – fronted by romantic couple Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans – faked the imminent leak of an alleged sex tape as part of a PR hoax.

The group's publicist denied having anything to do with it, and the band issued a defense of the hoax on the grounds that it was part of one of their "multi-faceted projects," a "slowly unveiling conspiracy, inspired in equal part by The X-Files, Nathan for You, and the KLF." Regardless of possible artistic intent, a backlash quickly ensued, with detractors claiming that Bechtolt and Evans were making light of the real-life problem of sex-tape leaks as revenge porn. Granted, Yacht are far from the first musical act to launch an ill-conceived publicity stunt and suffer the consequences. Here are a few of the most notorious examples.

Lady Gaga; MTV; VMA; Music Awards; Publicity; Stunts; Gone Wrong; Rolling Stone; List

Lady Gaga poses backstage after accepting the award for video of the year for "Bad Romance" at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Chris Pizzello/AP

Lady Gaga Wears a Meat Dress (2010)

Lady Gaga tested the gag reflex of the world when she showed up to the 2010 VMAs in a dress made of meat. PETA was just one of many vocal protestors in the wake of her flagrant display of succulence, and when grilled by vegan Ellen DeGeneres soon after, Gaga explained the dress was a protest against the U.S. military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy in regard to gay service members. The connection between raw meat and gay liberation wasn't exactly clear, and Gaga didn't make things much clearer when she explained to DeGeneres, "If we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones."

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