6. George Michael Wants Your Sex
We Knew Him When…He was one half of Wham! (along side Other Guy), the ’80s pop due responsible for “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” without a doubt the most ludicrously joyful song ever made. Just look at the damn music video, consisting of the two guys dancing around in “Choose Life” t-shirts! Look at their smiles! You don’t get any less offensive. There are zero clouds on their horizons. Pretty much every song they ever made was insanely happy, even bummer ones like “Careless Whisper” and “Last Christmas” (the greatest Christmas song ever made). They are audio Prozac.
By 1987 Wham! had split and Michael went solo with his landmark disc, Faith, featuring lead single “I Want Your Sex.” Despite espousing the virtues of a monogamous relationship (how un-rock star), many people were shocked by this ode to…well, sex! The song was banned by radio stations across the globe, and many other disc jockey’s (including Top 40 guru Casey Kasem) refused to say its title. The racy video had gems like Michael writing “Explore Monogamy” on real-life partner Kathy Jeung‘s back with lipstick. Poor George even recorded a prologue in which he insists “This song is not about casual sex,” but MTV still refused to play the clip before the watershed, and recently ranked it among the most controversial music videos of all time.
5. Miley Cyrus Can’t Be Tamed
We Knew Her When…Yeah yeah, we all know the story here. Need we say more?
We’ve all seen enough Disney stars to know what was coming. South Park even predicted it years ago! Miley jumped from being a small screen hero for millions of little kids on Hannah Montana, to pursuing a serious Nashville music career. Her second album, 2008’s appropriately titled Breakout, hinted at the direction to come, and the 15-year-old courted further controversy that year with leaked bikini photos and a topless (save for a bed-sheet) Vanity Fair cover with taken by Annie Leibovitz.
By 2010 the 17-year-old was raising more eyebrows with her revealing concert attire, and her new single seemed to act as a direct answer to those critics who feared that she was leading her young Hannah Montana fans down an adult-themed path. “Can’t Be Tamed” and the accompanying video exploded in the spring of 2010, complete with steamy lyrics concerning freedom and self-exprression. It was hard to miss the metaphor, as the edgy and dark toned video had Miley trapped in a giant cage while gawking onlookers stared. After a series of sizzling dance movies, Miley The Exotic Songbird breaks out of her cage. Get the message? The wrecking ball, the twerking,the foam finger…it all started here.
4. Rihanna’s A Good Girl Gone Bad
We Knew Her When…
Riri was originally marketed as a reggae singer when she first came emerged on the scene in 2005 with her breezy debut album Music of the Sun. Steeped in the breezy Caribbean sound of her native Barbados, early singles like “Pon De Replay” and “SOS” performed admirably, but there wasn’t much to distinguish her from the pop crowd. It was as if she hadn’t found her individual voice and ran the risk of getting lost in what Slant Magazine called “a glut of teen R&B chanteuses” of the time. Even her style and fashion sense drew unfavorable comparisons to Beyonce.
Her third album was aptly titled Good Girl Gone Bad, and signified a change in direction for the 20-year-old, moving her away from the dance-hall and reggae-influenced beats of old, and into harder-edged R&B. The disc featured darker cuts like the title track, “Hate That I Love You”, and “Breakin’ Dishes”, and got a hand from pro hitmakers like The-Dream and Timbaland, “I basically took the attitude of the bad girl and I really got rebellious and just did everything the way I wanted to do it—I didn’t want to listen to anybody,” she told The Star Phoenix at the time. “I just reinvented myself. I’m not the innocent Rihanna anymore. I’m taking a lot more risks and chances.”
The music video for the single “Umbrella” showcased Rihanna’s new style, including her trend-setting blunt bob and unique silver paint. The song (and album) went on to be a unbridled ’round-the-world smash. This incredible success perhaps encouraged Rihanna to continue embracing her inner bad-girl rebellious side, continuing on her next album Rated R, and evolving into the beloved controversy machine we know today. And we wouldn’t want her any other way!