While promoting his new album, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright was asked by The Guardian what he thought about pop tart Miley Cyrus. This was his response:
One of the most horrifying things I’ve seen in my life was her and Madonna singing together at the end of her Unplugged show. It was really, I don’t know, the overtones were way undertoned. I just need a little bit more in my life than that.
Calling Madonna, the reigning Queen of Pop, “horrifying”? Them’s fightin’ words, Rufus. Though we can’t say we entirely disagree.
The performance may have been in poor taste. Honestly, something about a 55-year-old woman sticking out her tongue and grinding up against a half-naked former child star is a little — well — uncomfortable. Had it been a 55-year-old man gyrating against a woman 35 years younger than him, people would have no doubt been up in arms.
But was the performance the most horrifying? We’re not sure.
Here are five other creepy/terrifying/unfortunate moments in pop culture.
Britney Spears and the infamous “Gimme More” VMA performance
The year was 2007. Professionally, Britney Spears was at the top of her game, about to release one of her most critically-acclaimed albums to date, Blackout, which sold an impressive 290,000 copies on its first week and was heralded by Rolling Stone as being one of the most influential albums in modern pop. Personally, however, her life was in shambles.
First there was there was the divorce from Kevin Federline, which was followed by the head shaving incident, beating up a car with an umbrella, accidentally flashing her hairless vajayjay to the paparazzi… twice, late night car chases around Los Angeles, the British accent, being carted off in an ambulance for an alleged mental breakdown, and the list goes on and on. Put simply, it wasn’t a good year in Britney Jean’s life, and some would argue she still hasn’t fully recovered from it.
All that being said, when she took to the stage at the MTV Music Video Awards on September 9, 2007, everyone was wondering the same thing: Did the once unstoppable pop princess have the mental capacity to perform her hotly-anticipated new single, or would she crack on live television? Deep down, we all knew the answer. But we watched anyway.
The New York Times called the performance a “fiasco” during which “a listless Ms. Spears teetered through her dance steps and mouthed only occasional words in a wan attempt to lip-sync her new single.” Other critics called her “hopelessly dazed,” “lumbering in slow motion,” and “one of the worst [performances] to grace the MTV Awards.”
Mariah Carey in Glitter
While we’re on the subject of delicate pop stars on the verge of mental breakdowns, let’s not forget Mariah Carey and the 2001 musical drama Glitter, which chronicled the life and times of Billie, a mixed race singer who struggles to make a name for herself in the early club music scene of the 1980s.
The film was Ms. Carey’s second foray into acting. (Her first was in 1999’s The Bachelor, in which she had a supporting role playing a melodramatic opera singer). Glitter was originally intended to be a vehicle that would propel her into movie stardom. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.
In July 2001, it was reported that Carey was suffering an emotional breakdown. She began writing cryptic messages on her website about being “overworked” and made a bizarre surprise appearance on Total Request Live that involved an ice cream cart and an impromptu striptease. Days later, she checked into a Connecticut hospital, where she remained under a doctor’s care for two weeks.
When Glitter opened that September, it was a box office flop, earning less than $6 million against a $22 million budget. It was universally panned by critics, with many calling it one of the worst films ever made. “Many divas have exploited their star power to sell movie tickets — to varying degrees of success. But Mariah Carey’s was a spectacular collapse,” one critic wrote. The film received six Razzie Award nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Actress, which Carey won.
In an interview in 2010, the R&B diva said she believed the reason the film flopped was because the soundtrack was released on September 11, 2001, and that the film also suffered a loss of promotional opportunities due to the media covering the attacks.
Whatever you say, Mariah.
Lady Gaga and the rapey Do What U Want music video
In June of this year, it was announced that Lady Gaga would not be releasing the music video to her song Do What U Want out of concern that the public might not appreciate her collaboration with singer R. Kelly — who was once accused of peeing on then raping a 14-year-old girl and who, in 2008, was put on trial for possessing kiddie porn — and fashion photographer Terry Richardson — who has been fielding a storm of controversy in recent months over allegedly sexually assaulting and/or harassing his female models.
TMZ obtained a disturbing snippet of the video and it was just as horrifying as you might expect. It opens with Gaga strapped into a hospital bed while R. Kelly plays the doctor. He gropes her under a sheet, she moans, then he responds, “Sounds like that medicine’s starting to kick in.” Then Gaga passes out and, well, you can imagine what happens next.
Richardson was the video’s director. He also makes a cameo appearance snapping photos of naked Gaga while she’s writhes around in newspapers touching herself.
Though the full video was never released, the 33-second clip was enough to send us running to the bathroom, first to throw up and then to shower off. Here’s hoping the horror show never “leaks” in its entirety.
The cast of Les Misérables performing at the 2012 Academy Awards
When the cast of Les Misérables performed a medley of songs from the film based off the musical based off the book by Victor Hugo at the 2012 Academy Awards, it was an awkward four and a half minutes.
Not only was it one of the most uncharismatic casts in film history — Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Siegfried, and… Sacha Baron Cohen? — but they rigidly stood on stage dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos wailing about the Paris Uprising of 1832. If that wasn’t bad enough, they sounded like the cast of a community theater production, struggling to sing in unison. One couldn’t help but get the impression that none of them (except for maybe Anne Hathaway, who was determined to prove that she deserved that Best Supporting Actress award, damn it!) actually wanted to be there.
Honestly, the only good thing about the performance was when it ended.
The disastrous Lindsay Lohan “docu-series” on OWN
The Lindsay Lohan
reality show “docu-series” produced by Oprah was meant to help the troubled has-been reclaim her spotlight after falling out of the public’s good graces during several tumultuous years of boozing and using, drunk driving charges, shoplifting allegations, failed stints in rehab, trips to jail, probation violations, et cetera, et cetera.
“I’ve changed,” Lindsay insisted for the one-millionth time. But this time, she was serious. Like, seriously serious. And to prove it, she agreed to let a film crew follow her around as she rebuilt her life after her sixth stay in rehab.
The only problem? She hadn’t changed.
All Lindsay did was confirm what everybody already knew: that LiLo is a complete mess, that whatever twinkle she once possessed has been completely doused by all the alcohol, and that she has a pretty crummy attitude about things.
The show didn’t earn Lohan any points with critics or fans, what few she had left. Ratings were a disaster, probably because the show was a disaster. Even Oprah agreed. She didn’t renew Lindsay for a second season. Insiders said she felt the whole thing was “trashy” and a “mistake,” and she was unhappy that her advice to Lohan went “ignored.”
You know it’s a bad sign when even Oprah, the world’s greatest advocate for second and third and fourth chances, gives up.