It's a fact of the music industry — sometimes stars need to lip sync. Whether they have insane choreography to keep up with or just need the safety net of a backing track while performing on "Saturday Night Live" (ahem, Ashlee Simpson), many stars have been involved in lip-syncing scandals. But none was so dramatic as Milli Vanilli's back in 1990. The duo — Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan — won the Grammy for best new artist that year, only to later have to give it back after they were outed for not having sung on any of their releases. Keep reading to take a look back at more massive scandals in the music industry over the years…
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Sinead O'Connor was performing on "Saturday Night Live" in 1992 when she made a controversial move on camera: She ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a live performance of Bob Marley's song "War" and declared, "Fight the real enemy." The musician was angry about abuse in the Catholic church at the time. The studio audience was silent in the wake of Sinead's shocking declaration and many viewers at home were upset and offended. Fellow music star Madonna — no stranger to controversial behavior concerning Catholicism — criticized Sinead's move. "I think there is a better way to present her ideas rather than ripping up an image that means a lot to other people," she said.
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It's not often that two of music's biggest names are involved in a decade-long feud. But that's what's been happening with Kanye West and Taylor Swift since 2009. It all started when Kanye infamously rushed the stage at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards after Taylor won the Moonman for best female video, grabbed the mic, told her "I'mma let you finish" and argued that the award should have gone to Beyonce. Though at one point it seemed like Kanye and Taylor's beef was squashed, their feud roared to life again in 2016 when Kanye referenced Taylor on his 2016 album "The Life of Pablo." In the song "Famous," he rapped, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b—- famous." Kanye claimed Taylor had approved the lyrics but Taylor denied it. Then Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian West, took to Snapchat to drop some receipts — videos of Kanye on the phone with Taylor, who was heard backing some of his ideas. Needless to say, this didn't sit well with Taylor who used the crazy incident to inspire new music on her "Reputation" album.
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It's hard to imagine that The Beatles ever faced backlash — but boy did they in 1966 when John Lennon made a controversial comment. "We're more popular than Jesus now," he said during an interview with the London Evening Standard. The comments did not go over well in the United States, where radio stations subsequently banned the Beatles' music and campaigns to destroy their records popped up across the country. Even the Pope got involved, denouncing John's comment. Their latest tour was nearly canceled until they called a press conference where John apologized, though the band never toured again after that. One born-again Christian fan who was said to have been particularly upset by John's comment? Mark David Chapman, who murdered John in 1980.
One of the strangest scandals in recent pop music history? The battle between Katy Perry and… a group of Catholic nuns. The pop star entered into a legal war with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary after she purchased a Los Angeles property that had been a convent for decades. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was fine with the sale and even facilitated it, but the nuns living there were not, telling Billboard magazine, "Katy Perry represents everything we don't believe in. It would be a sin to sell to her." The sisters also tried selling the 30,000-square-foot sanctuary located on eight acres in the Los Angeles hills to businesswoman Dana Hollister, a restauranteur, though the sale was later nullified, sparking years of legal battles. Making matters worse? One of the nuns died during one of the court proceedings, where her final words were, "Katy Perry. Please stop." Though Katy eventually won the right to purchase the former convent, her option to buy it expired and she's since moved on.
The most infamous Super Bowl Halftime Show performance to date took place in 2004, with fans remembering it for all the wrong reasons. Superstars Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake united on stage for a stellar show that was overshadowed by the last few seconds of Justin's song "Rock Your Body" as the singer exposed Janet's breast with a choreographed dance move. Viewers saw the alleged "wardrobe malfunction," resulting in a $500,000 fine and Janet's singles and music videos being blacklisted from CBS, MTV and its radio station groups, effectively stunting the superstar's career.
Did you know John Fogerty was once sued for… sounding like himself? Yep, the Creedence Clearwater Revival crooner faced a bizarre lawsuit in the '80s thanks to the sound of his own voice. It took place after he released "The Old Man Down the Road," a 1984 solo single. The label behind his old group sued, alleging he ripped off one of CCR's songs, "Run Through the Jungle." There was a lengthy legal battle and in 1988, a jury decided he didn't steal his own song. John told Rolling Stone he personally fought the case hard to protect future songwriters, explaining, "What's at stake is whether a person can continue to use his own style as he grows and goes on through life."
After the 2014 Met Gala, footage surfaced of JAY-Z and Solange in a heated altercation in an afterparty elevator as Beyonce calmly looked on. In the clip, Solange is seen yelling at her sister's husband and hitting and kicking him before she's restrained by a bodyguard and Beyonce steps in between them. There was speculation at the time that Solange was upset with Jay for cheating on her sister, and reports hinted that the drama involved Rachel Roy, though the designer later denied it. The Carters put out a statement in the wake of the elevator fight, claiming that they were working things out within their family. But the scandal was revived later that August when Beyonce released a remix of "Flawless" that alluded to the fight with the lyric, "Of course sometimes s— go down / when it's a billion dollars on an elevator."
This next scandal combines two of America's favorite things: football and country music. Hank Williams Jr. iconically sang the line "Are you ready for some football?" — the opening song for "Monday Night Football" for 22 years… right up until 2011. At that point, ESPN pulled the song after a controversy with the singer exploded when he compared then-President Barack Obama to Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler during an appearance on "Fox and Friends." Hank called a golf game that Obama and then-House Speaker John Boehner had played against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich "one of the biggest political mistakes ever," saying it was "like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. OK. Not hardly." Though he apologized, his famous song never returned to Monday nights.
When singer Jerry Lee Lewis married for the third time, his choice of bride raised a lot of eyebrows. That's because he'd wed his third cousin. And not only was Myra Gale Brown his blood relative — she was also only 13 at the time. The taboo marriage effectively torpedoed the Killer's career at the time, but they stayed married for 13 years and welcomed two children during their time together.
Miley Cyrus truly shed her "Hannah Montana" image for good at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2013. That night, the former Disney Channel star took to the stage alongside Robin Thicke and delivered one of the most scandalous performances in the show's history. The two belted out their hits "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" in a performance that involved a foam finger, a nude latex bikini and plenty of twerking.
Another infamous moment in music? When Ozzy Osbourne spent time in San Antonio, Texas, in 1982 and urinated on the famed Cenotaph statue across the street from the Alamo. The result? The rocker was arrested for public intoxication though got out on a $40 bond in time to perform at the city's convention center the same night. He was, however, banned from the city for 10 years. He returned in 1992 and again with son Jack while doing a show for the History Channel in 2015.
The Dixie Chicks came under fire in 2003 for bashing then-President George W. Bush during one of their concert overseas. While the band was performing in London, singer Natalie Maines criticized the Iraq war and stated that the band was "ashamed that the President… is from Texas." The result? A massive decrease in album and concert ticket sales back home thanks to fans who didn't appreciate what they perceived as unpatriotic comments.
R&B star R. Kelly has been plagued by legal drama since early in his career — primarily surrounding his relationships with young women and minors. In 1996, a woman filed charges for personal injuries and emotional distress she said she suffered while in a relationship with the singer when she was a minor. Then in 2002, a video of a man prosecutors say was R. Kelly being intimate with an allegedly underage girl as young as 13 surfaced, and the same year, he was indicted in Chicago on 21 counts of child pornography. A jury found him not guilty in 2008, but his legal woes were far from over. In 2017, a Buzzfeed report accused the singer of holding women hostage and operating a cult-like community, which R. Kelly denied. New investigations concerning sexual misconduct were launched in 2019 after a Lifetime documentary series, "Surviving R. Kelly," aired in January, resulting in multiple indictments on charges ranging from aggravated sexual abuse, racketeering and violations of the Mann Act to forced labor and engaging in prostitution with someone under 18. In December 2019, R. Kelly was accused of bribing a government official in 1994 to get a fake ID for a female. NBC News confirmed that the bogus document was pursued so that the R&B singer could marry music star Aaliyah when she was just 15 and he was 27. They secretly wed that same year and the union was later annulled.
The music world was shocked when famed songwriter and record producer Phil Spector was found guilty of murdering a woman in 2009. Actress Lana Clarkson was killed in his Los Angeles home in 2003. The music producer said it was an "accidental suicide," but during the 911 call, he was heard saying, "I think I've killed someone." His first trial in 2007 was declared a mistrial because of a hung jury, but in 2009, he was found guilty and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
The late '90s saw two of the biggest rappers of the era murdered in drive-by shootings. Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. died within six months of one another: Tupac, 25, was shot in the passenger seat of a BMW driven by Suge Knight in Las Vegas in September 1996 and Biggie Smalls (real name: Christopher Wallace) was murdered in the passenger seat of a Chevy Suburban in March 1997 at 26. Both men were friends when they first met in 1993 as rising stars in the rap world, but sadly, a rivalry between their record labels drove a wedge between them. They have another thing in common: Both of their murders were never solved.
After Eminem was alleged to be homophobic due to gay slurs he used in his lyrics, he made a bold statement to prove otherwise. He reached out to Elton John, who agreed to perform a duet with the rapper at the 2001 Grammys. The Detroit rapper and the British music icon, who's gay, delivered a powerful rendition of Eminem's hit song "Stan" together, even holding hands at one point. But many remained critical. "For me, Eminem was never homophobic," Elton later told Beats 1's Zane Lowe. "I listened to the whole of the 'Marshall Mathers' album … and I was floored by it. And I thought how could anyone think this is… he's just writing about the way things are. Not how he thinks, but the way things are."
Next up is an infamous scandal-plagued mystery that's gone on for decades. Michael Jackson was first accused of abusing a young boy at his Neverland Ranch back in 1993. He eventually settled that lawsuit out of court for $20 million, but it wouldn't be the last time allegations were raised. He was acquitted of different molestation charges in 2005 in a criminal case. Though the star died in 2009, his behavior was called into question again in 2013 when choreographer Wade Robson claimed he was abused as a boy by Michael; James Safechuck alleged the same in 2014. Their stories were told in 2019 in the Emmy-winning HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland." Michael's family has long denied claims the pop star was a pedophile or an abuser and filed a lawsuit against HBO.
Did you know that one of country music's biggest stars — Johnny Cash — was once banned from country music's most iconic venue? Yep, back in 1965, the musician performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville while drunk and ended up breaking floor lights on the stage. As a result, the venue banned Johnny from performing in the future. But fortunately for country fans, it didn't last long. He returned in 1969 to sing on that same stage and ended up eventually performing and hosting TV specials from the iconic Nashville venue.
Britney Spears grew up in the public eye, first as a performer on "The All New Mickey Mouse Club," then as one of the biggest pop stars the world has ever known following the release of her first hit song at 16. But she struggled in the wake of fame and constant paparazzi scrutiny and in July 2007, she infamously wielded an umbrella and attacked a paparazzo's vehicle with it after making a desperate plea for privacy between rehab stints. She then attempted to blame the incident on method acting, writing on her website at the time, "I was preparing my character for a roll (sic) in a movie where the husband never plays his part so they switch places accidentally. I take all my rolls (sic) very seriously and got a little carried away. Unfortunately I didn't get the part."