Top 10 SHOCKING Music Scandals



Top 10 SHOCKING Music Scandals

VOICE OVER: Matt Campbell
Script written by George Pacheco

The music industry has no shortage of juicy controversies. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be taking a look at our picks for the top 10 Shocking Music Scandals. For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous, scandalous or otherwise shocking situations that occurred within the music industry, and had significant repercussions and consequences for the artists and other parties involved.

Special thanks to our user extremespyderbyte for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at


Top 10 Shocking Music Scandals

These were the moments which shook the music world to its very core. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shocking Music Scandals.
For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous, scandalous or otherwise shocking situations that occurred within the music industry, and had significant repercussions and consequences for the artists and other parties involved.

#10: Payola

The idea of corruption within the music industry is nothing new. It also takes many forms, one of them being payola, a term used to describe the taking of a bribe, financial or otherwise, in exchange for radio airplay. This practice was commonplace between record labels and DJ personalities for decades, until congressional investigations into payola directly impacted such beloved radio hosts as Dick Clark and Alan Freed. The latter was fired as a result of his association with payola, while DJs in general were no longer put in charge of directly influencing or deciding radio programming, and which music would be played on air.

#9: Dixie Chicks Backlash

During the early day of the Iraq War, Natalie Maines, singer for the popular country group The Dixie Chicks took the stage in England and spoke her mind. Maines introduced the band's song "Travelin' Soldier" with a comment which stated, in part, that the southern group was "ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas”. Reaction was swift and harsh for the Chicks after news of this statement reached the U.S. with some fans calling for a boycott of the band, while others sent Maines threatening letters. The uproar would eventually subside after Maines publicly apologized directly to the President, but the damage done was never really repaired.

#8: 2 Live Crew-Arrested for Obscenity

These days, not much – in the music world or otherwise – shocks us, with much of society now desensitized towards sex or violence. This wasn't exactly the case back in late eighties, however, prime example being an incident involving the Miami hip-hop group 2 Live Crew. Their 1989 album "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" landed the group in hot water with Florida officials, after it was deemed obscene by a U.S. district court. 2 Live Crew were arrested after performing the material at a local club, and were forced to defend their right for free speech in court. The ruling was eventually overturned, in the process making "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" a bona-fide smash hit.

#7: Milli Vanilli Lip Sync Scandal

The year was 1990, and the German pop group Milli Vanilli were riding high upon a wave of incredible success. The handsome duo even nabbed a "Best New Artist" award from the Grammys that year, and seemed poised for MTV superstardom. Then, as they say, it all came crashing down. It was revealed that Milli members Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan hadn't actually sung any of the songs on their record, and lip synced all of their live performances. The Grammy was taken away, sales started to slump and not even an attempted comeback using Rob and Fab's real voices could save Milli Vanilli from becoming one of the decade's most infamous musical casualties.

#6: Norwegian Black Metal and The Murder of Euronymous

It would be easy for the uninitiated to see the Norwegian Black Metal scene as something straight out of the cinema. Truth is stranger than fiction, however, as evidenced by the case of Euronymous guitarist for the influential black metal band Mayhem. The musician, born Øystein Aarseth, was stabbed to death in his Oslo home by Kristian "Varg" Vikernes, a former band mate. Rumors flew as to the motives behind the killing, ranging from finances and jealousy to competing against other violent acts performed by other musicians within the black metal scene. Varg would serve nearly 15 years of a 21-year sentence, before being paroled in 2009.

#5: Chris Brown Assault Charges

Rihanna and Chris Brown were a popular R&B "it couple" amongst their respective fans, until one incident changed things forever. Brown turned himself in to police in February 2009 on charges that he physically assaulted Rihanna during a verbal altercation. The incident would leave Rihanna with visible injuries to her face, and immediately caused a huge backlash against Brown, who up until that point had enjoyed sizable chart success. Brown cancelled an appearance at the Grammy Awards that year, and saw a number of his lucrative endorsement deals go up in smoke. He would plead guilty to felony assault charges in June, and received a deal of five years probation, community service and counselling.

#4: Gary Glitter Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography

1970s glam icon Gary Glitter and nu-metal singer Ian Watkins both earned themselves deserved falls from grace when it was revealed that both had been in possession of child pornography. Glitter's rap sheet includes convictions for multiple counts of child sexual abuse, while an investigation into Watkins revealed video evidence of his unimaginable crimes of rape and sexual violence against young children. Honestly, the less said about these two the better.

#3: R. Kelly's Sex Tape

R&B singer R. Kelly was gearing up to perform at the 2002 Winter Olympics when news in Chicago broke about a video which allegedly displayed R. Kelly having sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl. Kelly denied the accusations, yet a search of his Florida home turned up more evidence, which furthered a second case against Kelly. His eventual trial was fraught with delays, with the jury ultimately acquitting the singer in June of that year on all charges. The ordeal didn’t stop there, however, with a report by BuzzFeed surfacing in July of 2017 accusing Kelly of leading an ‘abusive sex cult’ that involves the abduction, manipulation and control of several young women.

#2: Phil Spector is Tried for Murder

By all accounts, Phil Spector was a legend of the music industry. A singer, songwriter and producer extraordinaire who enjoyed untold success and influence throughout his career. Spector's personal demons and eccentricities caught up to him, however, when he was put on trial in 2007 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson The crime had occurred in Spector's California mansion four years prior and it would take two more years before a jury would convict the disgraced former icon. Spector was given a sentenced of 19 years to life for the crime during which he claimed that Clarkson had committed "accidental suicide" by "kissing the gun."

Before we name our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Sinead O'Connor Tears a Photo of The Pope 

Jerry Lee Lewis Marries his Cousin

Led Zeppelin's Groupie Abuse

#1: Sex Abuse and Michael Jackson

The life and career of Michael Jackson was filled with some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Unfortunately, it would be accusations of child sexual abuse that would follow the King of Pop, starting with the high-profile Jordan Chandler case in 1993. Jackson proclaimed and maintained his innocence, and even wedded Lisa Marie Presley the following year. However, many saw the marriage as a publicity stunt. Public opinion regarding Jackson's strange behavior with young boys never truly went away, especially with a new trial on similar charges arising again in 2005. Up to and since his death on June 25th, 2009, the rumours have persisted.


So, do you agree with our list? Which music scandal did you find most shocking? For more insightful top ten lists, published every day, be sure to subscribe to!