Music often causes controversy in modern society. Despite the fact that it seems unthinkable for many people that music can carry some meaningful information, the authorities often made attempts to introduce censorship and ban certain works. Some music was considered simply insulting and out of place for society.
We will tell below about the ten most controversial popular works created by people. Some of them became revolutionary and challenged the established norms, and some – created a wave of discussions in the music community, generating moral panic and calls for censorship. The works are arranged in chronological order, starting with those that were written or released in full before.
Opera “Parsifal”, Richard Wagner.
The premiere of this work took place on July 26, 1882. Many believe that it was thanks to Wagner in the classical music in the late XIX century revolution took place. It is enough only to recall his masterpieces such as “Tristan and Isolde” or the tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelungen.” The last completed work of the great composer was the opera Parsifal. The first sketches of it were made back in 1857, so all work lasted a quarter of a century. The action itself is based on two stories. The first is the epic of the 13th century by Wolfram von Eschenbach “Partzalfal”. It spoke of the knights of King Arthur and their search for the Holy Grail. The second story belongs to Chrétien de Troyes, it’s quite an old record about searching for the same artifact.
What is debatable in this work? The fact is that Wagner was a frank and fierce anti-Semite. He still remains one of the most controversial figures in classical music. Once he even wrote that the Jewish race was born, as the enemy of pureblooded humanity and all noble. The very same opera Parsifal is interpreted by many as the encouragement of racism and anti-Semitism. Perhaps the main controversial issue in the work is that the main character (in fact, the Aryan hero) overcomes the machinations and difficulties erected by the sorcerer Klingsor. But he is interpreted as a typical Jewish stereotype. Another source of scandal around this work was the composer’s unwillingness to perform his work by people of Jewish nationality. Wagner even went so far as to write to King Ludwig, the sponsor of the creation of the work, about his protesting the appointment of conductor Herman Levy from the Munich Opera to the premiere of Parsifal. Many critics doubt that Wagner deliberately put racist material in his latest work. However, considering the personal convictions of the composer and the nature of the character of Klingsor, the work remains still controversial, generating a wave of discussion around itself. The ballet “The Sacred Spring”, Igor Stravinsky.
The premiere of this work took place on May 29, 1913. In the history of the ballet, the work of Igor Stravinsky is considered one of the most influential, but at the same time one of the most controversial. His wild energy “Spring Sacred” literally blew up the rules of classical music. The ballet lasts only 33 minutes and is a reconstruction of the pagan ritual in Russia. As such, there is no plot, during the celebration a girl is chosen to be the great deadly victim, so that spring will come. Both the music and the dances themselves were revolutionary. At the same time, complicated rhythmic structures, dissonance and strange sounds were used. The choreography of the ballet staged by the legendary Wenceslas Nijinsky challenged the established norms. The movements of the bodies were sharp and jerky, which was in direct contradiction with the elegant and elegant forms of the traditional ballet. The ballet was represented by Sergei Diaghilev, and the scenery was created by Nicholas Roerich himself.
About how the music and choreography of “The Sacred Spring” revolutionized classical music and dance, whole books were written. However, at the time of the premiere the work was taken very badly – it was simply booed.After all, music and dances were too rigid and “wild”, too stunning for the exquisite taste of the musical elite. The world simply turned out to be unprepared for the release of such a work. The premiere took place in the theater on the Champs Elysees in Paris, the audience literally staged a riot. Just a few minutes after the beginning of the work, some began to whistle. And there were those who supported Stravinsky and his work. Two camps literally started to fight right in the theater, while the ballet was still going on. The police was called, but by the time the second part began, she had already lost control of the situation. The noise from the audience was so strong that the dancers on stage were not able to hear the clues. Nijinsky himself sat on the edge of the stage and shouted remarks so that the performers would hear him. The reaction to the performances was so strong that the composer was forced to flee the theater before the end of the premiere. Although now the “Spring of the Sacred” is considered a masterpiece of music and classics, the work has definitely made history, as one of the most controversial in the history of classical music. The song “Strange Fruit”, Billy Holiday.
This world heard the song in 1939. A strange fruit is one of the most famous standards of jazz of all time. Billy Holiday contributed to this, whose performance is considered a classic, and the composition itself became her calling card. The song examines the issues of racism in the American South. In particular, the practice of lynching African-Americans is mentioned, likening them to “black fruits hanging from ebony.” The song was based on the poem by Abel Meerpola, a Jewish teacher from the Bronx. He, in turn, was inspired by photographs of lynchings in 1930 in Indiana. After the publication, the poem was put on music and became a kind of note of protest, sounded in New York.
“Strange Fruit” has become an innovative song for using vivid pictures that immediately aroused imagination, and for recognizing the existence of racism in society. The very work condemned him. Nevertheless, many were afraid that listeners in the South would take revenge on the creators of the hit. However, the biggest opposition was not in the person of racists, but in the face of anti-communists. The fact is that the author of the poem was a member of the American Communist Party. Abel Meerpol was the adoptive father for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for allegedly transferring the secrets of an atomic bomb to the USSR. And then the creators were accused of the fact that the song was ordered by the Communists. As a result, the “Strange Fruit” was even banned for execution on the radio. Yes, many clubs have banned from playing this popular composition. Let “Strange Fruit” and was not the first song against violence on racial grounds, it is rightfully considered one of the best and certainly the most scandalous.
The song “4’33” “, John Cage.
The premiere of this composition took place on August 29, 1952. Its author was the American composer John Cage. The song itself came out quite experimental and consists of three parts. Entry takes 30 seconds of silence, the main part – 2 minutes 23 seconds silence, then follows the conclusion – 40 seconds of even more silence. All this action lasts exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The avant-garde composer tells the musicians not to play on their musicians for the entire length of the composition. Kage believes that the meaning of the work is that the audience should listen to the sounds of the environment during the performance, coming to a state of harmony with it. The main instruments of the song are the spectators themselves and the world around them.
Around 4’33 “has long been a fierce debate among musicologists. Is it possible to consider this composition as music? Many argue that the absence of music can not in itself be considered it. Others argue that the creation of Cage has pushed the boundaries of understanding of what music is in general.But since the work is rather structured, each of its parts has its own specific duration, and the song is created by a musician and an audience, then it can be asserted that this is indeed a musical composition. Nevertheless, it still remains a controversial work, around which scientific and cultural discussions have been conducted for half a century.
The song “Louis, Louis,” was originally performed by Richard Berry, then “The Kingsmen.”
This song was released in May 1963. Originally it was written by Richard Berry in 1955. But she was waiting for a second life, which made the composition of the famous rock song, performed by many singers. The most famous version was performed by Kingsmen in 1963. During the recording of the song, they mixed the rhythms very boldly, giving them the famous bit 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3, which then became part of the mass consciousness. The version of the group was also famous for the fact that their presentation of the texts was almost completely incomprehensible.
Ironically, an incomprehensible song that helped popularize the Kingsmen version also served as an excuse for much controversy surrounding it. According to rumors, in fact, the lyrics of the song narrated about sex and contained profanity. And the indistinctness of their pronunciation has been made deliberately, so that no one understands the true meaning of the song. Such disputes led to the fact that many radio stations generally preferred to remove from the air a scandalous song. In Indiana, the song was banned personally by the state governor Matthew Welch. The disputes reached their climax after the FBI attempted to decipher the texts. The investigation lasted as much as 31 months. No matter how funny, even the secret services could not decode the words of the song. The song has become one of the most striking examples of fear of the upcoming culture of rock and roll. Conservatives in the early 60’s tried to rebuff the new trend and introduce censorship songs they did not understand.
Single “God Save the Queen”, Sex Pistols.
This composition was released on May 27, 1977. This single was only the second in the history of the famous punk band. However, the song was destined to become one of the most famous in the history of this trend. The very name of the song was directly taken from the hymn of Great Britain. The single at the same time leads a direct attack on the British monarchy, directly calling it a fascist regime. The song itself was able to reach the second place in the national radio chart of Great Britain. As a result, she became one of the most famous songs in the history of rock.
The single was released in the year of the 25th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. “God Save the Queen” shook all conservative English society. The song quickly became a punk anthem for British youth. The single was banned by the Air Force and the Independent Television and Radio Broadcasting Committee, which operated independent local radio stations. It was the last committee that made the further wide impact of the song through the media impossible. Although the song reached the second place in the national chart, accusations were made that she simply was not allowed to climb to the first place for political reasons. And the musicians themselves were attacked by fans of the British monarchy a month after the release of their scandalous hit. Although in recent years the controversy and indignation about this song have already gone into decline, “God Save the Queen” remains the cornerstone of the British counter-culture. And on the day of the half-century anniversary of the reign of the Queen, “Sex Pistols” even re-released their most famous hit.
The song “Darling Nikki”, Prince.
The composition was part of the Prince’s “Purple Raine” album, released on June 25, The rock song narrates about a sexual villain named Nikki, who stops the singer in the lobby of the hotel and seduces him.
The lyrics depict very explicit sexual images (I met her in the hotel lobby, masturbating with a magazine), which was the basis for the scandal.Disputes around “Darling Nikki” became the main factor for the subsequent founding in 1985 of the American public organization “Parents Music Resource Center”. It was created by 4 women led by Senator Gore’s wife. The organization claimed that such music leads to the disintegration and destruction of the traditional American family. As a result, a whole list of 15 songs was compiled, which are the most reprehensible from a moral point of view. The list of “Disgusting Fifteen” was headed by the Prince’s song. Thanks to the efforts of this organization in the music industry, the notion of parental control arose when the warning covers were placed on the covers of the most scandalous albums. The single “Dear God”, XTC.
This composition saw the world on June 1, 1987. She sang her XTC band, performing in the genre “New Wave”. The vocal of the song was performed by eight-year-old Jasmine Veliet, a friend of the producer Todd Rundgren. The texts are a direct appeal to God, who is accused of causing suffering to people. Each verse ends with the phrase “I can not believe in you”. The song reached the 37th place in the Rock Billboard chart and 99 in the UK single-chart. The vocalist of the band was inspired to write this song after reading a series of books about the exploitation of children.
Naturally, such texts caused widespread outrage and resentment of the most conservative sections of society. Many stores refused to sell this single, many radio stations refused it. Especially strong hysteria was in the United States. One of the radio stations in Florida, which let the song on the air, received threats of using incendiary bombs. But the biggest controversy over the song broke out over the incident in Binghamton, New York. There, the 18-year-old Gary Pullis struck a secretary with his knife right in the premises of his school, demanding that the song be played on the internal radio station. The teenager himself was later arrested.
“Fuck tha Police”, N.W.A.
August 8, 1998 released the debut album of the American hip-hop group N.W.A. He immediately became scandalous. Especially there was the song “Fuck tha Police”. She protested against the brutality of the police and the manifestation of racism by white cops towards blacks. The song appeared as a consequence of the tension that was present between the authorities and the urban youth. This was especially evident in the arrest of Rodney King and the ensuing mass riots in Los Angeles in 1992. Although the song was never released separately as a single, it became the visiting card of the band N.W.A., having entered the list of the 500 best songs of all time according to Rolling Stone. This hit is located at 416 place.
“Fuck tha Police” quickly became one of the most gangsta rap songs in history right after its release. Thanks to their incendiary and poignant poems, which sometimes even directly call for violence against the police, a heated debate arose around the song. The team itself was even forbidden to perform at many venues in the country. In addition, law enforcement agencies turned their anger on N.W.A. The FBI and the Secret Service of the country sent letters to the recording company of the label, expressing their dissatisfaction with the song. Among other things, the composition was criticized as a source of real violence against policemen in life.
The song “Kim”, Eminem.
This song was part of Eminem’s third album “Marshall Mathers LP”. It went on sale on May 23, 2000. “Kim” – a six-minute bunch of anger and hatred of the singer in relation to his ex-wife Kim Mathers. The song was taken as a sample of “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, an additional piano riff was superimposed on top of it. Kim’s story is told from the point of view of Eminem himself, about how he beat and then killed his ex-girlfriend after the murder of her husband and a young child. The song abruptly ends with the cries of the singer “Die, bitch, die!” And dragging her body into the trunk of the car.
The song “Kim” was one of the most criticized, hated and yet famous rap songs in history. It was condemned by politicians and parents for portraying violence in the family. A year after the release of Eminem’s album, the famous massacre at Columbine School took place. As a result, the song was censored after the killer of the four-year-old boy referred to this composition. “Kim” even led the singer to court after the real Kim Mathers tried to commit suicide after listening to a song in Detroit on July 7, 2000.