The Year in NSFW Music Videos

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A couple of years back, we started what’s become something of a December tradition on Flavorpill — looking at the year’s most attention-grabbing music videos. As we noted the first time we did this, the decline of MTV and the rise of the internet has liberated directors to make videos that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, and those same factors have also made it harder than ever for any given band’s video to get noticed. The result is a seemingly endless stream of clips that play the NSFW card for all they’re worth, and it’s always interesting to see the ways in which the creative envelope has been pushed over the last 12 months. Here are 15 videos that have done exactly that — some are good, some are horrible, but all of them are noteworthy in one way or the other.

Frank Ocean — Pyramids”

This certainly isn’t the first hip hop/R&B video to be set in a strip club, but it’s probably the best. “Pyramids” is shot through with the same sort of empty, coke-fueled alienation that pervades so much of Channel Orange (and Ocean’s work in general), and its depiction of the eponymous Pyramid does a fine job of evoking that sense of despair you feel when the stash is starting to deplete and the “fun” suddenly doesn’t seem that fun anymore.

David Lynch — Crazy Clown Time”

This is as close to a new David Lynch film as we’re likely to get for quite some time, so we might as well enjoy it, even if it does skate dangerously close to self-parody at times. The video is a nightmarish narration of the events related in the song, which were weird enough to begin with — “Suzy, she ripped her shirt off completely?” Why, yes. Yes, she did.

The Flaming Lips feat. Erykah Badu — The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

The fiasco surrounding this video may well go down as the moment when Wayne Coyne strapped on his psychedelic jetpack and launched himself out of a flaming vagina straight over the proverbial shark. Releasing an unapproved edit featuring Erykah Badu’s sister Nayrok in a bath of faux-semen was bad enough, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this whole sorry affair was the revelation in Badu’s epic TwitLonger rant about the video that Coyne’s explanation of the concept was, “it doesn’t mean anything … I just want to make a great video that everyone is going to watch.” This from the man who wrote “Do You Realize???” Boo, Wayne Coyne, boo. Anyway, Badu wasn’t happy, and demanded the video be pulled. It was duly expunged from the internet, but Coyne, undeterred, went in search of someone to take Badu’s place in the jizz-bath…

The Flaming Lips feat. Amanda Palmer — The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

…and who else to turn to than Amanda “Look at Me! Look at MEEEEEEE!” Palmer? If you’ve ever wanted to see Palmer cavort nekkid in the bath, well, don’t let us stop you.

Amanda Palmer — Do It With a Rockstar”

And hey, guess who co-directed this video for Palmer? Sigh. We’re assuming she actually paid him.

The Rolling Stones — Doom and Gloom”

Because if you were the Rolling Stones, you’d totally jump at the opportunity to get Noomi Rapace’s tits in your new video, because… well, just because, really. We can’t help but think of that line from Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” here, though: “I ache in the places where I used to play/ And I’m crazy for love, but I’m not coming on.” Still, if this floats Mick’s boat, well, good for him.

Sigur Rós — Valtari”

Of course, videos featuring nudity don’t have to be exploitative and awful, as this video demonstrates. It’s a rather literal depiction of the idea of love as two bodies literally fusing into one, and it’s really rather beautiful. The choreography is pretty spectacular, too.

Screaming Females — It All Means Nothing”

What is it with Screaming Females and thoroughly disturbing videos? It’s a toss-up between their clips for “It All Means Nothing” (intra-band murder!) and “Leave It All Up to Me” (zombie apocalypse!). We’re gonna go for the former here (mainly because the video involves cats, if we’re honest), but ultimately, this is a pretty arbitrary decision either way.

of Montreal — Sails Hermaphroditic”

Similarly, you can rely on of Montreal for videos that are both weird and weirdly sexy — last year it was the Lord of the Flies-esque “Coquet Coquette,” and this time it’s an acid-fried game of British Bulldog that gets awfully messy once the participants get into the special Jello shots. Quite why a faux-Mötley Crüe feature at the end is unclear, but, well, it probably all made perfect sense at the time.

Wise Blood — Loud Mouths”

And also on the strangely, surreally violent front, this features Wise Blood’s Christopher Laufman trapped in a rather Lynchian nightmare. We won’t spoil exactly what happens, but there’s a hint of Lost Highway about it, and also something of Mulholland Drive in the way its plot is catalyzed by a car crash and apparent amnesia.

Spiritualized — Hey Jane”

The videos from Sweet Heart, Sweet Light have had a theme, namely narrating the lives of people existing “outside of society,” as Patti Smith once put it. This first installment, which narrated a day in the life of a transsexual prostitute, was harrowing in the extreme and proved particularly controversial — some people loved it, some people hated it, but either way, it certainly commanded people’s attention. (A warning: the last three minutes or so are really disturbingly violent.)

Sharon Van Etten — Magic Chords”

Dead people! Dead naked people! This is creepy as hell, actually, even if it does feature some rather pretty cinematography.

The Golden Filter — Kill Me”

And shit, talking of creepiness, there’s something awfully disturbing about this video — and hey, we know what that something is: mother-son incest and torture fantasies! If you thought your family was dysfunctional, well, watch this and rejoice in the fact that it could be a whole lot worse. (In all seriousness, this video really is pretty fucked up — don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Die Antwoord — Fatty Boom Boom”

We guess whether this is NSFW depends on your boss’s tolerance for blackface, but we wouldn’t be playing it in any workplace unless we fancied having an extended discussion with those in charge about the political and artistic merits of Yo-Landi’s decision to cover herself in black body paint.

A Place to Bury Strangers — You Are the One”

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