While stories of banned music videos are legendary at this point—from M.I.A.'s ginger-killing "Born Free" video to Robin Thicke's topless version of "Blurred Lines" to a sizable chuck of Madonna's videography—censored music videos tend to fly under the radar. In fact, you've probably watched dozens of censored clips without even realizing they were altered by the broadcasting powers that be.
In the following seven music videos—a few of which are stone-cold classics—"offensive" words are replaced, other lyrics are outright dropped and visual segments are tastefully trimmed. Check out these (often questionably) censored videos.
Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" video faced controversy before filming even began, with Brazilian officials trying to stop director Spike Lee from shooting poverty-stricken areas in Rio. When that failed, they tried to obtain editing privileges over the finished footage (that also failed).
Despite making it through the fire, the protest song's video was censored after making its world premiere thanks to Jackson's controversial lyrics. The line, "Jew me, sue me, everybody do me / Kick me, k-ke me, don't you black or white me" was changed to "Do me, sue me, everybody do me / Kick me, strike me, don't you black or white me" after an enormous outcry over perceived antisemitism. Although Jackson was initially resistant to altering his lyrics in the video, he eventually apologized for the lyrics.
Sir Mix-a-Lot's immortal ode to ass has the "Dial 1-900" part muted from the
broadcast version of the video. Why is that particular line so offensive in a
song entirely about sex? Who knows? According to Vulture's
history of the hit song, MTV was extremely reluctant to play the video in the first
place. So maybe the network felt they had to censor
something after initially refusing to play it in any form.
Given that Eminem and Dr. Dre's 1999 song "Guilty Conscience" covers robbery, murder and date rape, it was inevitable something was going to get censored from the video (actually, it's a miracle the entire thing wasn't outright banned).
Slim Shady's line "slip this in her drink" is excised and the murderous end of the clip is removed entirely. The song itself ends with Shady successfully convincing Dre that a dude who just walked in on his wife and another man should kill them both—and the director's cut of the video depicts that. The broadcast version, however, wraps the video inconclusively, removing the revenge killing entirely.
My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade highlight "Teenagers" came out not long after the Virginia Tech shootings, and given the song's title, broadcasters were extremely wary. They excised a scene of teenagers breaking out of locked doors and removed the words "sh-t," "murder" and "gun." The video also ended with a card that read, "Violence is never the answer. If you feel like acting out, reach out."
Like one of Stefon's nightclubs, this Katy Perry video has everything: Kenny G, Rebecca Black, Corey Feldman, Hanson, Debbie Gibson and TWO Glee cast members. One thing the "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) clip doesn't have? The full lyrics to the song.
To protect the minds of those impressionable young kids, broadcasters cut the line "ménage à trois" from the song. Because it's okay to talk about waking up in bed with a stranger, but a threesome is too far for MTV.
Sean Kingston's No. 1 hit "Beautiful Girls"—a reggae-tinged interpolation of "Stand By Me"—is primarily about a guy whose convinced he can't date gorgeous girls because they'll inevitably dump him, leaving him "suicidal, suicidal."
But you wouldn't know that from watching the video on MTV. While Radio Disney replaced "suicidal" with "in denial," the MTV broadcast of the song drops that lyric entirely. BET and Fuse, however, aired the video with the original lyrics intact.
Even classic rocker Tom Petty has been censored by the MTV gods. His 1994 hit "You Don't Know How It Feels" featured the line "let's roll another joint" which was apparently too far for the network. They subbed "hit" for "roll," turning it into a song about bar hopping instead of weed smoking. Coincidentally, the song's b-side—"Girl On LSD"—was too salacious for Warner Bros, who made Petty drop it from his Wildflowers album due to references to heroin, meth and cocaine.