It's a steel cage match among the critically acclaimed. Last week, the Internet stood at attention to regard "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," the video for the slow-motion, eerie, reverb-heavy and quite cool Flaming Lip-Erykah Badu version of the Roberta Flack hit, which was originally written by British folk legend Ewan MacColl for his wife Peggy Seeger.
The clip for the song, which was directed by Lips frontman Wayne Coyne (pictured taking a picture of Badu) and originally posted on Pitchfork, featured a bath tub, glitter, lots of icky blood- and semen-like liquids, and nude imagery of a woman who many mistook for Badu but turned out to be her sister Nayrok. The song was originally released on vinyl for Record Store Day as part of a roundup of collaborations called The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, which included contributions from Yoko Ono, Bon Iver and Biz Markie.
Considering the track records of both Badu and the Lips, the clip - which has since been taken down - didn't seem all that out of character. Along with gambits such as conflating Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz, the Lips' psychedelic shows often end with onstage toplessness. And Badu, too, has been known to get freaky: the auteur behind 2010's New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, who may or may not release two albums later this year, caused a stir in 2010 when she disrobed in Dallas' Dealey Plaza for her "Window Seat" video.
It came apparent, though, that something had gone wrong with the collaboration when Coyne tweeted on Friday: "Sorry!!Sorry!!! Sorry!!!! Video First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is temporarily taken down...should be back up Monday!!"
Then yesterday, the Lips released a statement that read, in part: "The video link that was erroneously posted on Pitchfork by the Flaming Lips of the Music Video “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”, which features Erykah Badu, is unedited and unapproved.. Sorry!! We, the Flaming Lips, accept full responsibility for prematurely having Pitchfork post it. ... we apologize if we offended any viewers!!! This is a Flaming Lips video which features Erykah Badu and her sister Nayrok and is not meant to be considered an Erykah Badu or Nayrok statement, creation, or approved version."
Later in the day, Badu sent Coyne a message on Twitlonger lambasting him for releasing the video without her approval and ripping into him numerous ways. She accused him of "disrespecting me," saying "just because an image is shocking doesn't make it art," and called him "Self Serving."
"Brother, As a human I am disgusted with your what appears to be desperation and poor execution. And disregard for others," she wrote. "As a director I am unimpressed . As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated." In conclusion, Badu wrote "you can KiSS MY Glittery ASS. O and Nayrok told me to tell u to kiss her ass too."
Later on Wednesday, Coyne tweeted: "Hey @fatbellybella" - that's Badu's Twitter handle - "I kissed it!!!! Thanks!!!!!!" Seeming undisturbed by Badu's anger, he added: "You were right on! @fatbellybella you said we gonna make a video that is controversial and gets everybody talkin!You the master!! Love you."
Audio of the song is below. The Flaming Lips play the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware on July 22.