Join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at some of the music industry's biggest scandals and controversies that have made headlines over the years… starting with this recent debacle. On Oct. 8, 2020, rapper Tory Lanez was hit with multiple charges — including assault with a semiautomatic firearm, carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle and inflicting great bodily injury — related to a violent incident in the Hollywood Hills that took place nearly three months earlier on July 12. Though a press release issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office didn't name her, it was clear the alleged victim was rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who on July 15 made similar claims without naming Tory. "I suffered gunshot wounds [to my feet], as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me," Meghan wrote on Instagram. "I was never arrested, the police officers drove me to the hospital where I underwent surgery to remove the bullets. I'm incredibly grateful to be alive and that I'm expected to make a full recovery, but it was important for me to clarify the details about this traumatic night." Prior to the DA's announcement, Tory denied allegations that he shot Megan via his album "Daystar," which was released in September 2020. Keep reading for more…
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.
RELATED: Biggest music moments of 2020 so far
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.
It's not often that two of music's biggest names are involved in a feud that lasts more than a decade. 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 his 2016 song "Famous," Kanye West rapped, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b**** famous." Kanye claimed Taylor Swift approved the lyrics but Taylor denied it. He then released short art film that served as a music video for the track — and it featured unclothed figures of Taylor in bed along with wax figures of stars like Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Rihanna, Caitlyn Jenner, George Bush and more. Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian West, later took to Snapchat to drop some receipts — videos of Kanye on the phone with Taylor, who could be heard backing some — but not all — 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. In March 2020, however, the scandal found new life when new footage was released of that same phone call — albeit a more complete recording — that Kim had previously celebrated on Snapchat. For fans of the "Lover" pop star, the 25-minute video served as vindication that Taylor had been honest the entire time. Taylor broke her silence in an Instagram Story that urged fans to focus on "what really matters" amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about the video footage that leaked, proving that I was telling the truth the whole time about that call (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family and fans through hell for 4 years)… SWIPE UP to see what really matters," she wrote. Kim then took to social media to share her own thoughts on the video. "I never edited the footage (another lie) – I only posted a few clips on Snapchat to make my point and the full video that recently leaked doesn't change that narrative," the KKW Beauty founder tweeted. Yikes.
In May 2018, rapper Pusha T released the diss track "The Story of Adidon" featuring lyrics like, "You are hiding a child, let that boy come home… Adonis is your son." It sparked a scandal, as he'd just outed rapper Drake for fathering a little boy and not acknowledging him. Then, in June 2018, Drake responded with the track "Emotionless," which contained lyrics like, "I wasn't hiding my kid from the world / I was hiding the world from my kid… Breakin' news in my life I don't run to the blogs / The only ones I wanna tell are the ones I can call." Drake at last confirmed he'd fathered son Adonis, who was born in 2017, following a brief romance with adult film star-turned-artist Sophie Brussaux. Nearly two years later in March 2020, Drake took to Instagram to, for the first time ever, publicly share photos of his son as well as himself with Adonis and Sophie.
In 2019, Britney Spears checked into a mental health facility for two weeks after telling fans she needed "me time" following reports confirming that her father, who's also her conservator, had suffered a health setback. Her "Britney: Domination" show, which was set to be her next Las Vegas residency, was canceled. Some fans grew concerned, which sparked the growth of the #FreeBritney movement — a fan-led effort to uncover the truth about the conservatorship that's overseen the pop star's life and finances since she endured a mental health crisis in 2008 — as many speculated Britney was being held against her will. Since then, fans involved in the movement have protested outside a courthouse holding conservatorship hearings, signed petitions and launched campaigns in support of the pop star, sold merchandise promoting the #FreeBritney movement, expressed concern over her sometimes bizarre social media presence and left comments on her posts requesting she wear, for instance, a yellow top to signify she needs help (she did, in fact, don a yellow top in her next post, though fans still wonder if it was on purpose or a mere coincidence). In September 2020, Britney appeared to side with the movement when her lawyers filed documents opposing her father's wishes to seal parts of her ongoing conservatorship hearings after she asked for an independent party to take the reins so that her father was not the sole person in charge. But during more legal maneuvering in October 2020, Britney's own lawyer compared her to "a comatose patient" while explaining to a judge that the music star lacked the capacity to sign a declaration conveying her feelings about certain aspects of the conservatorship.
The Dixie Chicks, who in 2020 changed their name to The 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.
Remember when music mogul Lou Pearlman defrauded the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC? After starting Trans Continental Records, Lou went on to create two of the world's most famous and successful boy bands. As the groups reached new levels of fame and broke global records, some serious financial success followed — but members soon began to realize that the numbers just weren't adding up. The Backstreet Boys were the first of Lou's musical acts to file a lawsuit against him, alleging that Lou's profits reflected that of a sixth member of the group on top of management and producer fees he was also being paid. The discrepancy was first brought to the boy band's attention after member Brian Littrell's lawyer found that the group made just $300,000 while Lou and his label earned millions. It wasn't long before more of Lou's musical acts followed suit — *NSYNC filed a similar lawsuit, as did solo act Aaron Carter. The boy bands eventually settled but reportedly for far less than they were owed. Lou ended up dying in prison in 2016 eight years into a 25-year sentence for conspiracy, money laundering and other charges related to his shady business practices.
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 tug on her bodice. Viewers saw the alleged "wardrobe malfunction," which resulted 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.
In February 2009, following a pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles, Rihanna and boyfriend Chris Brown got into an argument in his car that escalated into a physical altercation that left the Barbados singer bloodied and bruised with serious facial injuries. Chris — who later admitted to hitting her and feeling like a "monster" — was arrested and eventually reached a plea deal that saw him commit to community service, probation and domestic violence counseling. In a "20/20" interview, Rihanna spoke candidly about her relationship with the "Forever" singer, revealing that she'd vowed to never date someone like her father, who had been physically abusive to her mother. "All I kept thinking was, 'When is it going to stop?'" she told journalist Diane Sawyer of the altercation with Chris. "At that point, I just didn't know what could happen. He was clearly blacked out. There was no person when I looked at him. It was almost as if he had nothing to lose. He had so much to lose. … It wasn't the same person that says I loved you. It definitely wasn't those eyes." The music stars sparked controversy again when they reconciled a few years later. "Even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake," Rihanna told Rolling Stone in 2013. She and Chris, however, soon split again.
It was the music video that sent shock waves through the Catholic community. The title track off Madonna's fourth studio album, 1989's "Like a Prayer," dealt with some pretty controversial subject matter as far as the Catholic Church was concerned: a steamy, near-romantic relationship with God. Coupled with some seriously sexy lyrics and scenes that depicted Madonna dancing amidst a field of burning crosses and kissing a Black saint, the video was denounced by the Catholic Church for its blasphemous use of Christian imagery. The Vatican even called for Catholics to boycott Pepsi after the track was used in one of the brand's commercials. Leave it to Madonna to make a major stir (and a lasting impact).
The year was 2004, and Ashlee Simpson was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," where she was promoting "Autobiography," her debut album. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite. While her first performance of the night — a rendition of her debut single, "Pieces of Me" — went smoothly, the second performance did not. While on stage to deliver her second song of the night, pre-recorded vocals of "Pieces of Me" suddenly began to play, making it entirely apparent that Ashlee had been lip-syncing. How she handled the debacle in the moment was a disaster: She busted out a few awkward and improvised dance moves. Yikes.
As cases of the coronavirus escalated in June 2020, you'd think musicians would have steered clear of bringing together large crowds for a concert, right? Not exactly. In June 2020, country music singer Chase Rice sparked controversy when he not only hit the stage to perform for nearly 1,000 fans in Tennessee but later posted a video celebrating the crowd — most of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing — as they sang along to one of his hits. Many fans and even some fellow country stars swiftly criticized Chase's concert and behavior. "Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people's health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL country concert right now," tweeted country pop star Kelsea Ballerini. "@ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait." Singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton also took to Twitter to voice her thoughts, writing, "This is happening in Tennessee where cases are spiking y'all. Jesus help us." She continued, "I'm asthmatic…. I'm high risk and seeing this just broke me. Shame on him. People don't have jobs. People can't buy food. People are dying…. yet here he is acting like it isn't even happening. I'm sick to my stomach." While a rep for the venue said fans were encouraged to practice social distancing, that clearly was not the case. Music star Chris Janson was also heavily criticized for playing live for crowds amid the pandemic.
The year was 1999, and music star Sean Combs — who at the time was better known as "Puff Daddy" — was involved in a shooting inside a New York City nightclub. Both the rapper, who now goes by Diddy, and his girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Lopez, were arrested for their alleged involvement in the shooting that injured three people. While the charges against J.Lo were dropped shortly after her arrest, Diddy was charged with bribery and gun possession. The hip-hop icon, however, was later acquitted of all charges after rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow confessed to perpetrating the shooting.
In September 2005 during NBC's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," Kanye West was featured on the live broadcast alongside actor Mike Myers — though what was supposed to be a fundraiser to promote donations to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina turned into a night involving a surprise political declaration about the president that sparked a major controversy. Kanye went off-script and uttered the now infamous statement, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." As we know, however, this wouldn't be the last time Kanye garnered attention for his political views…
In 2018, after previously voicing his support for the businessman-turned-politician, Kanye West paid a visit to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office and wore a "Make America Great Again" hat. "I feel like he's very misunderstood and the worst communicator," Kim Kardashian West said of her husband while chatting with CNN's Van Jones. "But when we talk about it, we have very similar politics. He's not very political, actually, he just happens to like Donald Trump's personality, but doesn't know about the politics. So I've educated him recently." However, in July 2020, after declaring that he was running for president himself, the rapper and fashion designer waded further into controversy-filled waters, explaining on Twitter, "I would run as a Republican if Trump wasn't there. I will run as an independent if Trump is there."
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.
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." But that wasn't the end of the scandal for Bey and Jay…
It was a bombshell moment. In April 2016, Beyonce dropped the visual album "Lemonade," which not only confirmed longstanding rumors that her husband, rapper JAY-Z, had cheated on her, but chronicled the emotional tribulations she endured as she dealt with the aftermath of his infidelity while also shining a light on Black womanhood. Broken into various chapters — intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, redemption — "Lemonade" was praised and became the most critically acclaimed work in Beyonce's career. With vulnerable lyrics on tracks like "Sorry," in which Bey says, "Looking at my watch, he shoulda been home / Today I regret the night I put that ring on," the album gave listeners an intimate look at how the star coped with the traumatic cheating scandals surrounding her husband and "Becky with the good hair." In June 2017, Jay released his 13th studio album, "4:44," which further confirmed his infidelity and served as a public apology and response to "Lemonade."
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.
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.
Eight years before her tragic death in a car accident, TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes garnered widespread media attention when she set fire to then-boyfriend Andre Rison's mansion in 1994. According to the rapper-singer, the former Atlanta Falcons player had allegedly beaten her and, in an effort to get back at him, she set his shoes on fire in the bathtub. The fire then spread rapidly throughout the home, eventually burning it to the ground. Left Eye was later charged with arson and sentenced to five years of probation and therapy at a halfway house.
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."
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 flesh-colored latex bikini and plenty of twerking.
In 2019, rapper A$AP Rocky was arrested after getting into a physical altercation in Stockholm, Sweden. As he was considered a flight risk, the Harlem-born hitmaker was detained and forced to await trial behind bars. Many were outraged, including the president — Donald Trump took to Twitter to call for the music star's release. In August 2019, Rocky was found guilty, though instead of being sentenced to more jail time, he and others in his entourage were made to pay 12,500 Swedish krona — approximately $1,300 — in damages plus legal fees to the victim of the assault.
In July 2007, rapper Remy Ma (real name: Reminisce Smith) was sentence to eight years in prison for her involvement in a shooting. Following an altercation, Makeda Barnes-Joseph, who was accused of stealing $3,000 from Remy, suffered a gunshot to the torso. While security footage showed no evidence of the incident, Makeda identified Remy as the shooter. The New York City MC was later convicted of assault, illegal weapon possession and attempted coercion and served six years in a New York correctional facility. She was released in 2014.
Who could forget this iconic performance? At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera took the stage to pay tribute to Madonna by recreating her famous "Like a Virgin" performance from the 1984 MTV VMAs. Viewers got a big shock: an unexpected smooch! When Madonna took the stage to join the new generation of pop stars, she shared a surprise kiss with Britney! Right after the kiss, a camera panned to Britney's ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake for his reaction. Spoiler alert: He was not impressed. The on-stage lip lock has since been dubbed one of the most memorable award show moments ever.
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.
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.
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."