Are NSFW Music Videos Brave Art, or Ploys for Horny Attention?


Once upon a time, depicting actual nudity or sex in a music video was basically pointless: It wouldn't get shown on MTV with those things in it, and there wasn't much use in making a video that wouldn't air on MTV (or any other TV channel).

That still applies for larger mainstream artists, who leave the graphic details out of their videos (or some versions of them) in the hopes that they'll get shown on TV. But with vids from independent artists that get distributed online, we can no longer depend on Viacom's censors to protect us from the horrors of the naked human form or the sight of copulation.

After all, on the web, risqué videos get slapped with the NSFW ("not safe for work") tag, which is essentially like putting a label on them that says CLICK ME RIGHT FUCKING NOW! It seems an effective strategy -- there's a new NSFW video almost every week. But we have to wonder: Are artists putting so much graphic nudity and sex in their videos these days because they belong there? Or are they just looking to seize your horny little mind and make it watch their stupid video?

The clip that raised this question for us is from Handsome Furs' "What About Us," the first single from an album whose cover art probably shouldn't get hung around your corporate cubicle. The video and art seem part of the same shoot: There's the naked tattooed girl dancing on top of the car, the two guys fucking in the woods, the straight couple doing it on the bathroom floor of the hotel room, and a random short-lived shot of some guy's schlong in night vision. It's an eye-grabbing video -- hell, we weren't rushing to turn it off -- but is it only eye-grabbing because of all the nudity and sex? Take a look:

Handsome Furs - "What About Us" from stereogum on Vimeo.

Contrast this with a recent video from the British band Yuck for "Shook Down." The video has full-frontal nudity from both sexes in it, but it's not exactly steamy -- even when there's making out during the climax of the song. The NSFW aspects here seem to serve a larger purpose -- a story, a point -- than simply making viewers hot:

Yuck - Shook Down from Yuck on Vimeo.

Then there's the video for Parenthetical Girls' "The Pornographer." It doesn't show any actual nudity -- unless you count a guy's armpits. Instead, it consists of a single shot showing singer Zac Pennington's face ... while he gets a blow job. How do you know he's getting a blow job? His expressions tell you everything you need to know. And at the climax (of the song, the video, the ...), Pennington is forced to stop lip-synching to pursue some heavy breathing:

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robert zonkers
robert zonkers

yeah handsome furs suck. i would only watch/listen to this if it was nsfw and i was @ w


I appreciate that MTV morality still hasn't changed since they blocked Devo's "Thats Good" video in the 80s for the frenchfry and the doughnut image.  That being said most of these videos are fairly dull, though thats still better than the mainstream work thats televised 

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