The Year in NSFW Music Videos

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The decline of MTV and the rise of the Internet means that artists making music videos these days have far more creative freedom than they ever did in the past, and for the last couple of years at Flavorwire, we’ve looked at some of the videos that have pushed the envelope in the 12 months gone by, for better or worse. This has been a particularly good year for videos, and foremost amongst the year’s best have been some that are most definitely not safe for work. So, again, here’s an examination of how videos that are raunchy, terrifying, and/or plain old strange have featured in 2013.

Oneohtrix Point Never — “Still Life (Betamale)”

Surely the most fascinating video of the year, as well as one of the most disturbing, this examines the lives of the denizens of various tenebrous corners of the Internet, contrasting their virtual environments with the spaces they inhabit in the “real” world. As you’ll see when you hit “play,” neither are particularly pleasant.

Kanye West — “Bound 2”

The best thing about this: there are still people who think that Kanye just had no idea how cheesy the imagery is. Sigh.

David Bowie — “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”

David! Tilda! Self-referentialism! Self-parody! Voyeurism! Meta-Bowie in full effect! And enough hanky-panky that you probably don’t want your boss seeing this over your shoulder!

Kirin J. Callinan — “Embracism”

One of the best songs of the year, and it comes with one of the year’s best videos. As a visual evocation of the song’s themes of masculinity and the distinction between what’s tangibly “real” and what isn’t, you really couldn’t do a whole lot better (especially once you discover that that distortion that slowly eats away at the picture as the video goes on was created by transposing the song’s lyrics into the video source code, so that the song is literally distorting itself.)

The Knife — “Full of Fire”

A video that ties in perfectly with Shaking the Habitual‘s exploration of gender and the generally disconcerting nature of the music. It was made by Berlin-based artist Marit Östberg, whosays that his depiction of non-heteronormative identities in the film was inspired by the song’s line, “Who looks after my story?” In an ideal world, something this frank and fascinating wouldn’t be NSFW, but sadly, BDSM and women urinating in public probably aren’t great for most workplaces.

Jenny Hval — “Innocence is Kinky”

Similarly, there’s nothing technically explicit about this video save for the brief shot of a naked girl from behind — the rest of the time, all the bodies featured are covered, albeit lightly so — but the nature of the imagery (featuring women shaving, running, dancing, and blowing bubbles) makes it feel like you’re watching something naughty, even if you’re not. Of course, that’s the point — the video’s a fascinating evocation of the way such ostensibly “innocent” acts are hypersexualised in our society.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Jubilee Street”

John Hillcoat directs, Ray Winstone plays a middle-aged dropout sneaking to the wrong side of town to do entirely questionable things with a prostitute named Bee, and Nick wanders through darkened streets to observe all the seediness with suitably moody disdain. It’s a fairly straight narration of the song’s lyrics (which may or may not be a retelling of the tail of Jack the Ripper), and it works a treat.

Angel Haze — “No Bueno”

Honestly the most impressive thing about this is the lip-synching, but it also features a pretty, um, diverse cast of people, including a topless girl covered in tattoos and a fair bit of mild S&M action. It’s a study in how to make a compelling video for not very much money at all, and another example of Angel Haze’s acumen for making an impression.

Foals — “Late Night”

Foals were this year’s example of a band who went all out for controversy/edginess with their audiovisual output, and honestly, it wasn’t particularly edifying — unlike some of the other videos on this list, this feels more contrived than anything. As Stereogum sagely observed when they ran this video back in March, “[Making NSFW videos] is probably not a bad strategy; no television outlet (in the States, anyway) is going to give these things any airtime, and I’d bet NSFW vids on average get exponentially more clicks than those of the SFW variety.” Correct. In fairness, it’s pretty well done, although it’s really not the sort of hotel I’d want to be staying in for any great length of time.

Franz Ferdinand — “Evil Eye”

Also on the shock value front, this pastiche of horror movie imagery is a mixture of the bizarre, the cheesy and the actually somewhat stomach-churning. Honestly, though, the scariest thing is Alex Kapranos’ moustache.

Miley Cyrus — “Wrecking Ball”

Of course. Anything involving Terry Richardson is inherently not safe for work (and, arguably, not a safe workplace, either.)