×
Home Music Music Lists

The 15 Most NSFW Music Videos of All Time

From Duran Duran and Mötley Crüe to Madonna and Nelly, these are clips you’ll want to watch at home

"What About Us," the latest music video from Sub Pop synth-poppers Handsome Furs, is one of the more thoroughly NSFW clips of recent vintage (or at least since Rammstein’s “Pussy”). Topping their flesh-friendly made-to-go-viral contemporaries Flaming Lips, Yuck and El Guincho for seamy shock value, the Furs raise the question: has the largely unsupervised web helped usher in a golden age of nudity-laden online music videos?

A short answer: maybe. But it helps to consider the long view. Looking at these clips from the pre-MTV moment to the dawn of YouTube, two things quickly become clear. First: Well before we had to warn others that a video wasn’t S for W, there have been artists trying to squeeze as much swimsuit area as possible onto the boob tube. Second: a wide variety of nudity — from art-world representations to depictions of gay subcultures to simple misogyny — qualifies as stuff we don’t want our coworkers to see us looking at.

Here are our picks for the 15 most NSFW music videos of all time. Some of them might turn you on, some of them might make you cringe – but they're all probably best watched in the comfort of your own home.

By Eric Harvey

Play video

Queen, ‘Bicycle Race’ (1978)

Back when music videos were still called "pop promos," Queen was ahead of the game, releasing short films with their singles as far back as 1973. Yet for 1978’s "Bicycle Race" the (ahem) cheeky quartet went all out, hiring 65 nude models to pedal around Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium for an afternoon. Though it’s adorably tame by today’s standards, the clip was controversial three years before MTV hit the air.

Play video

Duran Duran, ‘Girls on Film’ (1981)

Duran Duran may have been the first "MTV band," but the fledgling music video network would receive a heavily edited version of the "Girls on Film" clip. Directors Godley and Crème aimed to get this incredibly risqué video played in the sort of venue that didn’t fret as much about a model in a see-through negligee taking down a sumo wrestler, or a semi-nude pillowfight straddling a greased-up candy cane: dance clubs with huge video monitors.

Play video

Soft Cell, ‘Sex Dwarf’ (1981)

"I would like you on a long black lead," Marc Almond sings, as he sleazily surveys the body of a writhing nude woman he’s chained to a table in his dramatically-lit S&M dungeon. Along with sideman David Ball bowing a chainsaw like some sort of phallic cello, we have the first 20 seconds of Soft Cell’s completely insane video for "Sex Dwarf." Vegetarians are advised to skip this one, but everyone else should stick around for the dramatic reveal of the titular character.

Play video

Peter Godwin, ‘Images of Heaven’ (1982)

Peter Godwin’s 1982 single "Images of Heaven" follows the look-but-can’t-touch narrative ("There’s nothing I can do/’Cause you don’t exist") that J. Geils’ mega-hit "Centerfold" did that same year. As it happens, there was one thing Godwin could do: make a video with a bunch of naked ladies in it. The rouge budget alone on this shoot must have been exorbitant, but few viewers would actually see this clip: MTV would get a much more PG version.

Play video

Frankie Goes to Hollywood, ‘Relax’ (1983)

Like the chorus’s notoriously obvious admonition against ejaculation, the Caligula-styled gay nightclub video for "Relax" (here’s the "tame" one) goes to town with campy suggestiveness. A dominatrix bartender has trouble keeping her top up, a few suggestive bananas appear and frontman Holly Johnson totally makes out with a tiger. It all culminates, as only this video could, when the party’s corpulent host dispenses with his own, um, relaxation – all over Johnson and his new friend, and complete with sound effects.

Play video

Serge Gainsbourg, ‘Lemon Incest’ (1984)

Quite possibly more disturbing than Charlotte Gainbourg’s incredibly NSFW turn in Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is this video, shot when she was only 13. Serge — as always a total creep — alternately towers over his daughter and lies shirtlessly next to her, in a bed that looks dropped into the middle of a Dark Crystal set. And yes, Charlotte’s only wearing a shirt and panties. The song reached Number Two in France.

Play video

Mötley Crüe, ‘Girls Girls Girls’ (1987)

If there were a more obvious candidate for a totally NSFW video, it’s hair metal’s finest purveyors of debaucherous douchebaggery crafting their catchiest ode to ogling. Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy saddle up on their Harleys and survey the Sunset Strip for as many boobs as money can buy. The clip gets more salacious as it goes, and will go down in history as the most explicit video in which any member of the band has ever appeared.

Play video

R.E.M., ‘Pop Song ’89’ (1989)

To commemorate R.E.M.’s big jump to Warner Brothers with Green, Michael Stipe crafted a tongue-in-cheek ode to the awkwardness of his newfound celebrity status. Oh, and the band made a video where Stipe performs with three topless ladies as his backup dancers. Easily the most lighthearted NSFW clip on this list outside of "Bicycle Race," with a censored version that featured the most entertaining set of bouncing black bars until the BPA’s 2008 video for "Toe Jam."

Play video

Madonna, ‘Justify My Love’ (1990)

In 1990, "Justify My Love" became the most controversial video of all time. Not necessarily because of its content (steamy makeout sessions and occasional BDSM garb in an upscale hotel — some of us call that "Tuesday") but because Madonna made it. MTV wouldn’t show it, but Wayne and Garth brilliantly parodied (and bested) it with Madge’s own assistance, and Nightline did an entire segment on its "controversy." Completely concidentally, the video’s VHS release became the highest-selling video single of all time.

Play video

Madonna, ‘Erotica’ (1992)

More or less "Justify My Love Pt. 2," the "Erotica" single was released concurrently with Madonna’s Sex book. Like that overpriced bit of coffee-table softcore, the "Erotica" video shows her cavorting with celebrities in various states of undress. Like "Justify," it was of course also banned by MTV, apparently because making out with Isabella Rossellini and Big Daddy Kane in the same video was just too weird. Or maybe the bare bottoms and ball-gags had something to do with it.

Play video

Nine Inch Nails, ‘Closer’ (1994)

"Closer" has the rare distinction of being a major pop hit with a totally NSFW hook. Mark Romanek’s unforgettable video for the song is equally distinctive: a found footage living museum of creepy bald dudes, a spinning pig’s head and a disembodied beating heart keeping metronomic time. For our purposes, however, the "Closer" clip’s historical significance lies in the fact that it was the first to fulfill the censorship categories of "freaked-out monkey on a crucifix" and "naked bald girl spinning eggs on her fingers."

Play video

Prodigy, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ (1997)

Spoiler alert: it’s a girl the whole time. Sorry! The Prodigy specialized in dance music for macho drunks, and Jonas Akerlund’s infamous video gave them their violence and titillation with a twist-ending that allowed them to rationalize its misogyny. Otherwise known as "MTV feminism." The network banned it, but then gave into viewer demand, only showing an edited version of the clip late at night and with a pre-emptive warning.

Play video

Björk, ‘Pagan Poetry’ (2001)

A video like "Pagan Poetry," which impressionistically traces Björk’s body in extreme close-up before zooming out to reveal her nude torso, serves as a litmus test for tolerance of the female body. Sure, you might feel a bit awkward playing the clip in your cubicle eating lunch, but there aren’t many music videos that display the female form in a more flattering and artful manner. Even if the piercing shots are a little much.

Play video

N.E.R.D., ‘Lap Dance’ (2001)

Despite Pharrell’s repeated refrain of "I dare a motherfucker to come in my face," the video for N.E.R.D.’s first single isn’t NSFW for, well, that reason. Instead, it updates the mostly runway bound action of "Girls Girls Girls" to the boring old leather couch-filled champagne room of a strip club. If you’re a fan of watching dudes’ faces when multiple girls are grinding on them, you’ve found your new favorite video.

Play video

Nelly, ‘E.I. (Tip Drill Remix)’ (2003)

Taking the "Rump Shaker" conceit to its pathological extreme, these man-children and their girls with low-self esteem coined one of the more unfortunate and weirdly complicated neologisms in recent rap history (a "tip drill" is a woman deemed unattractive who has sex for money). The video literally ends with Nelly swiping a credit card through a particular part of a woman’s anatomy. Censorship is bad, m’kay, but occasionally a music video just isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Show Comments