15 shades of Grey: The kinkiest music videos of all time

Madonna’s “Erotica” video. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Madonna’s “Erotica” video. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Fifty Shades Freed came out last week, just in time for Valentine’s date night. And if you do live under a rock, please let us know if there’s room under that rock for us, because we’d actually like to hide from the constant, aggressive media campaigning surrounding this much-hyped, BDSM-themed film. The PR folks are really flogging this one, pun intended.

S&M references in pop culture are nothing new, obviously. And really, instead of the critically panned Fifty Shades, we’d rather celebrate on Valentine’s Day some of the kinkiest music videos over the years that have mixed pleasure and pain with whips and chains. Many of these videos are NSFW, so you’ve been warned.

15. John Taylor, “I Do What I Do”

Long before Fifty Shades of Grey, there was 9 1/2 Weeks. And personally, we find watching John Taylor, heartthrob of an ’80s generation, singing about romantic fantasies way sexier than anything Jamie Dornan might do.

14. Christina Aguilera, “Not Myself Tonight”

This trying-too-hard embarrassment was actually the worst music video of 2010, and it nearly killed Xtina’s (pre-Voice) career. It’s kind of fascinating to watch this almost eight years later … especially since this video features footage of a ball-gagged Christina sitting in a red chair!

13. Rihanna, “S&M”

The Good Girl Gone Bad’s colorful BDSM romp actually garnered more controversy for allegedly ripping off the work of photographer David LaChapelle than for any of its PG-13 content. RiRi has made much racier videos than this. However, “S&M” still titillates.

12. George Michael, “I Want Your Sex”

This song caused a stir in 1987, despite the late ex-Wham! man’s claims that it was an ode to monogamy. However, while Michael was no doubt a video visionary, this clip seems quite quaint now. Enjoy the light bondage and silk-scarf blindfolding, three decades later, and remember a more innocent MTV era.

11. Kelis, “Blindfold Me”

The “Milkshake” queen and her then-husband Nas steamed up the screen in this too-hot-to-handle 2006 clip.

10. Nicki Minaj, “Only”

In 2014, Nicki’s bootylicious “Anaconda” video got all the attention. By the time she put out this dominatrix-themed clip, it seemed positively tame by comparison. Still, faint-hearted viewers should proceed with caution when watching Her Minajesty rough up Drake and Chris Brown.

9. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax”

The original video for “Relax,” set in a gay S&M nightclub, was reportedly banned by MTV and the BBC, which forced Holly Johnson and company to shoot a second, tamer, performance-based version with MTV regulars Godley and Creme. We prefer this one, starring the band members as underground leatherboys and a Roman emperor overseeing the decadent proceedings for the ultimate Caligula vibe.

8. Thirty Seconds to Mars, “Hurricane”

Jared Leto (under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins) directed this 13-minute experimental bondage film, which was unsurprisingly banned by MTV and other video channels around the globe. Thankfully, for those of you who want to see a shirtless Leto in various compromising positions, the video is viewable online. The censored version is below, but if you want to see the truly explicit version, feel free to go search for it on the interweb. Just make sure you’re over 18, of course!

7. Queen, “Body Language”

Forget about Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” This is the coolest music video ever shot in a bathhouse. It was also the first music video to be banned by MTV, while “Bad Romance” won seven Moonmen at the MTV Video Music Awards — which just goes to show how innovative Queen really was.

6. Klaxons, “Twin Flames”

This isn’t BDSM-themed per se, but it’s just too twisted and kinky not to include. It might actually be one of the most disturbing clips on this countdown. An orgy of fused flesh and linked limbs, it’s basically what would happen if David Cronenberg started directing softcore porn films. WATCH IT HERE.

5. Marilyn Manson, “(s)AINT”

Almost any Marilyn Manson video could have made this list, but the Antichrist Superstar took things to a whole new grotesque level with this video spree of coke-snorting, self-harming, and rope-tying. Even by Manson standards, this one is pretty shocking. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. WATCH IT HERE.


4. Duran Duran, “The Chauffeur”

Duran Duran’s nudity-filled “Girls on Film” remains one of the most notorious (no pun intended) music videos ever. But Duran’s equally racy black-and-white mini-movie, inspired by The Night Porter and the photography of Helmut Newton, is a much classier and artsier affair. WATCH IT HERE.


3. Madonna, “Erotica”

Possibly the most misguided publicity stunt of Madonna’s stunt-packed career was her Sex coffee-table book in 1992. Sex’s “arty” photos — some of which featured a nude Vanilla Ice or were accompanied by open-mic-night poems dedicated to her private parts — were neither erotic nor all that shocking. But one good thing came out of Madonna’s Sex era: this seductive video, one of her very best.

2. Soft Cell, “Sex Dwarf”

For decades, this banned Tim Pope video, featuring shackled little people, piles of bloody raw meat, Marc Almond in a tiny leather thong, and chainsaw-wielding brothel workers from London’s red-light district, was the stuff of legend. The legend was, specifically, that British police had confiscated copies of the video, and the footage was therefore lost forever. At times, Soft Cell denied the video’s existence and claimed that it was all just a ruse for publicity. Snopes was no help in this matter, but eventually the video did surface on the interweb. Unlike some videos considered obscene three decades ago that now seem cute (like George Michael’s), this one still shocks. WATCH IT HERE.

1. Nine Inch Nails, “Happiness in Slavery”

Proceed with EXTREME caution when watching this one, people. You have been warned. In this outrageous clip, masochistic performance artist Bob Flanagan straps himself to a torture device, then experiences great twisted pleasure as the machine ritualistically, literally tears him apart: impaling him, drilling his naked flesh, disemboweling him, killing him, and grinding him into meat. It’s basically a snuff film, although Flanagan did not really die onscreen (he passed away four years after this video was shot, from cystic fibrosis). “Happiness in Slavery” was banned pretty much everywhere good videos are shown, and it’s easy to see why. It makes NIN’s “Closer” look like a Care Bears cartoon. WATCH IT HERE.


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