Skirting Visual Controversy: 4 Musicians Who Have Pulled Their Own Videos
2. Michael Jackson, "Black or White"
This single from MJ's album Dangerous is probably more famous for the controversy over the video than the song itself. The video premiered as a special simulcast on four different TV networks, garnering 500 million viewers. But people were shocked when, at the end of the video, Michael transformed back from a black panther into his 1991 form (halfway-to-alien MJ, by that time) and started doing sexually suggestive dances and violently breaking things.
MJ apologized for the sexuality and violence and pulled the video for edits. He then re-released it, but his solution was even worse. The scenes of destruction now had digitally inserted racist and anti-Semitic graffiti, ostensibly as a metaphor to show Michael killing racism but which people didn't quite understand. At that point, networks said to hell with it and just banned the video outright.
1. Madonna, "American Life"
In 2003, Madonna, like a lot of others, was pissed off about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more specifically pissed off at her country and President Bush. These things were the inspiration behind her American Life album and eponymous single. But when she made the video for the song, she decided it went too far. One scene in particular featured her throwing a hand grenade to President Bush, which he then used to light a cigar. If this was the Madge of the '80s, she probably would have just put it out anyway.
But, since this was 2003 and the Dixie Chicks had just almost killed their career by criticizing W., Madonna pulled the video and apologized. She then released an edited version of the video which, unlike the case of Michael Jackson, actually solved the problems.