Home / Music & Arts / A look at some of the most controversial live-TV music moments

A look at some of the most controversial live-TV music moments

When TV is live anything can happen, especially when musicians are involved.

Artists can go on rants about the president, have a “wardrobe malfunction,” or offend the Catholic Church. On the 25th anniversary of Sinead O’Connor tearing up a photo of the pope on “Saturday Night Live,” here’s a look at some of the most controversial live-TV moments in music.

Sinead O’Connor rips pope photo

Sinead O’Connor’s protest against the Catholic Church made headlines everywhere in October 1992 and still remains one of the most scandalous moments in the history of “Saturday Night Live.”

The singer wanted to make a statement against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and chose to use her performance on SNL to make her point. While singing a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War,” O’Connor took out a photo of Pope John Paul II, sang the word “evil” and then tore the picture up while facing the camera.

SNL would later apologize to the audience after O’Connor’s actions made headlines everywhere, leading to NBC receiving thousands of phone calls about the incident.

O’Connor has no regrets about the incident, even though she did sort of fall out of the mainstream following the controversial moment.

Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show

The actions of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII forever changed the way halftime shows would go.

During a performance of his hit single, “Rock Your Body,” Timberlake tore open Jackson’s outfit while singing “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.” The singer exposed her breast to over 140 million people watching around the world.

When this happened MTV was no longer allowed to have a hand in the halftime show. The incident laid down the groundwork for the creation of YouTube and the NFL would bring in classic acts like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Tom Petty at future big games.

It appears it took about 14 years for the NFL to get over this incident. Timberlake is rumored to be the halftime performer for this year’s Super Bowl.

Madonna, Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera kiss

MTV had to know that something crazy was going to happen when you include Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera together at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

While the trio sang Madonna’s song “Hollywood,” the Queen of Pop turned to Spears and the two made out.

Madonna wasn’t done yet, turning to Aguilera to give her a smooch as well before Missy Elliot took the stage.

The moment quickly went on to make headlines and still remains one of the most talked about incidents in VMA history.

Elvis’ dance during “Hound Dog”

In the 1950s’, shaking your hips while you danced on TV was considered TV-MA.

Elvis Presley became a controversial figure in the music world after his performance of “Hound Dog” on NBC’s Milton Berle Show. Presley gyrated his hips and shook his legs as he sang the song, making women in the audience scream in excitement.

The singer was criticized for his dancing style and some even started to refer to him as “Elvis the Pelvis.” However, the singer slowly became one of the biggest rock artists in the world despite the controversy and criticism.

Some even say Presley learned his moves from Forrest Gump, but that’s all I have to say about that.

Kanye West goes after Bush following Hurricane Katrina

Kanye West is no stranger to saying something controversial or getting himself into headlines for the wrong reasons. This started to become a norm for the rapper following his outburst on “A Concert for Hurricane Relief” in 2005.

In the telethon that was meant to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, Kanye went off-script and passionately went on a rant about what was going on in Louisiana in the aftermath of the storm.

“So now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what’s, what is the biggest amount I can give, and, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help with the set-up, the way America is set up to help the, the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, this is – Red Cross is doing everything they can,” Kanye said.

Actor Mike Myers did his best to read off the prompter throughout the segment, but Kanye put the final exclamation point on the must-see moment by going after President Bush for his slow response with the storm.

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” Kanye exclaimed before the camera cut off the rapper and switched to Chris Tucker.

The moment marked a shift in West’s career, who would later create more controversy in moments like interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs and defending Trump on Twitter.

Miley Cyrus twerks on Robin Thicke

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke didn’t just blur the lines of appropriateness during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, many believed they crossed them.

After performing her song “We Can’t Stop,” Cyrus stripped down to a skin-colored latex outfit to duet Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” with the singer. While the two sang, Cyrus made raunchy gestures towards Thicke’s groin area using a foam finger and also proceeded to twerk up against him.

The two quickly made waves on social media and the performance was considered by many to be controversial. Instead of doing damage to Cyrus’ career, the performance only made her popularity rise while Thicke hasn’t really had a successful single since “Blurred Lines.”

Ashlee Simpson lip syncs on SNL

Jessica Simpson made media waves when she infamously asked if Chicken by the Sea tuna was tuna or fish and her sister Ashlee Simpson had a viral moment of her own in 2004.

To promote her debut album, Ashlee appeared on “Saturday Night Live” where she was supposed to perform two songs. When it was time for her to play her second song of the night, “Autobiography,” the vocals to “Pieces of Me” started to play, which revealed that she had previously lip synced her first song.

The band tried to go with it by playing “Pieces of Me” again while Ashlee did an awkward dance before walking off the stage. She later blamed acid reflux for why she had to lip sync on the show after getting backlash.

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