‘Hitler was a wonderful painter’: Erykah Badu, and other career capsizing interviews

From brostep pop stars to Hollywood veterans, we explore some of the problematic interviews that caused a furore

Erykah Badu, Vulture, 2018

What she said Oh dear Lord. She starts with: “I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler,” then proceeds to qualify the statement with the entirely baseless assertions that “he was a wonderful painter” and “he had a terrible childhood”, neither of which is true. She then ponders what her own daughter might have turned into had she grown up in the Hitler household. As one does.

The effect on her career A fortnight later she was announced as the headliner of Field Day festival.

Sean Connery, Playboy, 1965

What he said “I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman … An open-handed slap is justified … If a woman is a bitch or hysterical … I’d do it.”

The effect on his career Bafflingly, he worked solidly for close to four more decades, cornering the market in lovable, irascible father figures. By the time the internet arrived and revisited the comments to note that they were, you know, TOTALLY reprehensible, he had retired. In 2005, his ex-wife Diane Cilento alleged that Sir Sean was as good as his word during their marriage.

John Mayer, Playboy, 2010

John Mayer.

What he said The purveyor of tedious blues-rock started out his interview with Playboy denying that he was a douchebag, and then rapidly provided ample evidence that, actually, he really and truly is. In addition to dropping a casual N-bomb, he responded to a question about black female fans thusly: “My cock is sort of a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock.” A racist penis, ladies and gentlemen.

The effect on his career After some onstage weeping to hammer home the depths of his own feelings of twattery, he stopped doing interviews and didn’t sing in public again for nearly three years. Sensible.

Chainsmokers, Billboard, 2016

What they said The “brostep” pioneers farted out a litany of blokey guff in which they honked about being, like, really good at drinking, to the extent it would probably kill them; revealed that of all their artistic motivations, “pussy was [always] No 1 … I had to date a model”; and that they had a combined penis length of 17.34 inches. One of these seems substantially less likely than the others.

The effect on their career Non-existent – apparently it was not especially revelatory that the duo have a tendency towards dickheadedness. The next year, they won a Grammy.

5 Seconds of Summer, Rolling Stone, 2015

What they said Luke Hemmings of the Aussie pop-rockers alienated their youthful fanbase by, if not actively confessing to nightly sex sessions with multiple groupies as such, then smirkingly admitted that “the possibility is high” that such happenstances regularly took place. Which somehow seems worse than just saying, “Yes, we had sex with lots of fans, often several at once.”

The effect on their career Heart-warmingly for those of us who believe in karma, their one single release since the interview, 2016’s Girls Talk Boys, tanked horribly in all the major global markets. Still, phwoar, sex with girls, eh?

Lee Ryan, The Sun, 2001

What he said In a spectacularly poor choice of words, Blue crooner Lee said that 9/11 had been “blown out of all proportion” (oh dear) one month after it happened, and asked, “Who gives a fuck about New York when elephants are being killed?On a subsequent appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, he claimed he had said the much more even-handed “Fuck New York … Animals need saving and that’s more important”. Hey, that’s fine!

The effect on his career In an apology, he claimed that “I’m not good with words and I get mixed up”. You could argue the words “a subsequent appearance on Celebrity Big Brother” tell their own story. As do “Blue finished 11th in the Eurovision” and “got dropped by his record label”. They’re still out there, gamely plugging away, though.

Contributor

Pete Cashmore

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Erykah Badu | Pop review
Brixton Academy, London
Badu turns up late and then doesn't know when to stop – but her magical voice makes it all worthwhile, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

28, Jul, 2010 @9:00 PM

Article image
Erykah Badu – review
Treating her back catalogue like a living, breathing entity, Erykah Badu was on robust form, writes Alex Macpherson

Alex Macpherson

29, Jun, 2012 @3:21 PM

Erykah Badu, Brixton Academy, London

Brixton Academy, London

Caroline Sullivan

03, Jul, 2008 @11:26 PM

Article image
Portrait of the artist: Erykah Badu, singer
'Bleeding, sweating, crying, suffocating and being crushed – that's what art is made of'

Interview by Laura Barnett

19, Jun, 2012 @6:44 PM

Article image
CD: Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

(Universal Motown)

Alex Macpherson

07, Mar, 2008 @10:03 AM

Article image
Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh | CD review
At first, it seems Erykah Badu's revolution has been put on hold – but, says Alexis Petridis, digging deeper pays dividends

Alexis Petridis

01, Apr, 2010 @2:35 PM

Article image
Live and let live: why does James Bond always survive?
There have been 25 official films in the franchise. In all our Vesper martini-swigging hero escapes. Here’s – possibly – why

Rich Pelley

29, Mar, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Live music booking now

Erykah Badu | Biffy Clyro | Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Saint Etienne | The Hold Steady | Gang Of Four

The Guide

07, May, 2010 @11:11 PM

Article image
The future of pop culture: robot performers, an avatar Drake and a Kanye West superstore
AI, VR and smartphones are changing the way we consume culture, but what comes next? From film to visual arts, we explore entertainment’s new frontiers

Steve Rose, Peter Robinson, Nick Gillett, Issy Sampson, Skye Sherwin, Hannah Verdier, James Kettle, Ian McQuaid & Graeme Virtue

17, Oct, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
'I'm not sorry I said it': Erykah Badu on music, motherhood and wildly unpopular opinions
The neo-soul star has sold millions, raised three kids and embodied wokeness before the word was even coined. But can her reputation survive January’s ‘I saw something good in Hitler’ comment?

Lanre Bakare

24, May, 2018 @5:12 PM