April Fools: The 10 Greatest Music Pranks Ever
As you watch your own back this April Fools' Day, have a look at the 10 greatest pranks ever pulled by musicians -- from Coldplay's smelliness to Nicki Minaj's "nuptials" to John Mayer's bear ego.
Justin Bieber: Punking TMZ and #BaldForBieber
In last year's shrewdest April Fool's Day prank, Justin Bieber got sweet revenge against the celebrity gossip site that had been posting not-so-flattering content about him for years. On April 1, Bieber tweeted (to his then-36.9 million followers), “As promised taking all fan phone calls TODAY at (888) 847 9869. Talk to u soon!”
Only that number wasn't Bieber's cell -- it was the TMZ tip line. Legions of Beliebers bombarded TMZ's phone lines, presumably ruining a perfectly ordinary day at the office. On top of all that, the number was toll-free, meaning TMZ had to foot the bill for what was likely a very costly prank. Bieber deleted the tweet soon after, though the damage had surely been done.
Previously, in October 2012, Bieber was the subject of a much more twisted prank. Pranksters on the image board 4chan hacked Entertainment Tonight's official Twitter account, and posted the following:
Shortly after, the hoax spawned an official website for the fictitious cause (the since deleted Baldforbieber.com), Facebook pages, and tribute videos. There were photoshopped tweets of Bieber talking about his condition, as well as images of fans with shaved heads, which were most likely unrelated images found around the web. According to NBC's "Today," Bieber supporters were tricked into tweeting #BaldforBieber 900 times that week. Despite this outpouring, it's questionable whether these tweets were sincere, or just a last ditch effort by pranksters to keep the hoax alive.
Thankfully, the prank was exposed soon after when the 4chan hoaxers were congratulated for their prank via sites like Twitter and Reddit.
Drake & Nicki Minaj Get Hitched
"I love Nicki Minaj, I told her I'd admit it/I hope one day we get married just to say we fucking did it," Drake raps about his Young Money co-rapper in his "Thank Me Later" single "Miss Me."
In August 2010, Drake tried to prove that he wasn't kidding around when he and Minaj announced on Twitter that Young Money's prince and princess had effectively tied the knot. "Please refer to @nickiminaj as Mrs. Aubrey Drake Graham and don't stare at her too long. She's finally mine. :)," Drake wrote.
A day after sending fans into a frenzy on Twitter, however, Drake and Nicki confessed that the announcement was a hoax: "My husband Drake and I have decided to have our marriage annulled. We'll maintain joint custody," Minaj tweeted. Fans of the "couple" were given a treat five months later, when Drake and Minaj locked lips in the latter's "Moment 4 Life" music video
Coldplay Defy Gravity, Bottle Their 'Angst'
The guys from Coldplay seem about as serious as they come, but they've pulled a pair of irreverent, self-deprecating April Fool's jokes on their fanbase.
On April 1, 2009, the band's official site announced, "Coldplay are to boldly go where no musicians have gone before, by recording in zero gravity." They claimed they would board a modified Boeing 727 aircraft (wearing self-designed protective outfits, no less) and play in a gravity-free atmosphere, along with legendary collaborator Brian Eno, who'd record the session on a 1969 analog cassette player. Coldplay and Eno are both known for profound, progressive posturing, so Chris Martin made the claim even more outlandish:
"We've been searching for the right environment to record the perfect snare drum sound for many years now… and I've just got a gut feeling that zero gravity is the place to do that, y'know?"
A year later, the band's official website announced the launch of "Angst by Coldplay," a custom fragrance made of "sangre, sudor and lágrimas" (blood, sweat and tears, in other words) -- sourced from FairTrade suppliers, of course -- and packaged in a "Brian Eno-designed bottle."
"This is something we've wanted to do for a long time," Chris Martin was quoted in the statement. "People like to smell nice and we thought we could help them out."
As an added punchline, the band also unveiled the ad campaign for the scent, featuring a photoshopped image of guitarist Jonny Buckland, looking as six-packed and pensive as a Calvin Klein model.
Hanson's Slipknot Covers Album
On April Fool's Day 2011, '90s teen heartthrobs Hanson announced they were putting pop rock aside and recording an album entirely of Slipknot covers. “We just felt like we needed to reinvent ourselves as a band a little bit with this kind of a project, Zac Hanson told VH1, with his brother Taylor adding, “Slipknot is kind of an underrated band!” To make the prank a bit more believable, the band shared a video of them covering Slipknot's "Wait and Bleed" with acoustic guitars inside a hotel room. Disappointingly -- yet unsurprisingly -- the album never came to be.
The campy, comically-'80s music video for Rick Astley's 1987 No. 1 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" got a massive resurgence in popularity thanks to one of internet history's most ubiquitous pranks. Around May 2007, a poster on the online imageboard 4chan pretended to post a link to the highly-anticipated trailer for "Grand Theft Auto IV," but pulled a bait-and-switch and directed unsuspecting clickers to the long forgotten Astley video. A previous 4chan bait-and-switch linked users to an image titled "Duckroll" (featuring a duck with wheels attached it) -- thus, the term "Rick Roll" was born.
Within the next year, as the prank spread across the internet, Rick Rolling grew into a phenomenon. On April Fools' Day 2008, all of the featured videos on YouTube's homepage jokingly led to the Astley vid. Later that year, MTV was Rick Rolled, when a flood of votes for Astley led to his nomination for Best Act Ever at the MTV Europe Music Awards. And on Thanksgiving Day that year, a live NBC audience watched Astley himself Rick Roll the Macy's Day Parade, as he gloriously lip-synced a surprise performance.
Earlier this year, Morrissey gave a nod to the Astley meme -- when David Bowie denied him the right to use a photo of the two on the re-issue of his 1989 single, "The Last of the Famous International Playboys," he instead used an old photo of himself with the red-haired singer. Who says Morrissey hasn't got a sense of humor?
Trent Reznor's Timbaland Collab
Leave it to the always iconoclastic Trent Reznor -- the first rock star we know who built an entire Alternate Reality Game around an album -- to announce a new Nine Inch Nails record called "Strobelight" incongruously produced by hip-hop beatmaker Timbaland.
With rocker Chris Cornell having released a Timbaland-produced effort not long before news of "Strobelight" broke, a headline about a Timbaland/NIN album sounded almost possible. Hey, NIN even posted a download page on its website. But consider the date of the announcement (April 1, 2009), the fact that just a couple of weeks earlier Reznor slammed Cornell's record on Twitter, and the actual contents of that download page, and you have the perfect recipe for an ideal rock 'n' roll April Fool's Day gag.
That "Strobelight" page on NIN.com remains hilarious, featuring a lame rock beat straight out of GarageBand on autoplay, Reznor on the purported album cover wearing Kanye-esque shutter-shades, song titles like "Pussygrinder featuring Sheryl Crow" (!), and a riff about how the email address you give to get the $28.98 "free" album, "will be kept confidential and will not be used for spam, unless we can make some money selling it." Two years later, we're still laughing.
Joaquin Phoenix 'Still Here' As Rapper
Fans were thoroughly confused when a disheveled, unreceptive Joaquin Phoenix appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman" in January 2009, shortly after "retiring" from acting in late 2008 in order to pursue a music career. But when a "documentary" chronicling Phoenix's transition from respected actor to aspiring rapper saw a release in September 2010, the public chatter over the validity of the film -- titled "I'm Still Here" -- was overwhelming. Even we fell for it.
Shortly after the film's theatrical release, Phoenix's directorial parter-in-crime, Casey Affleck, revealed to the press that the whole thing was a hoax. Soon after, a clean-shaven, coherent Phoenix appeared on "Letterman," again as his actor self. As we found, the man who so poignantly took on "The Man in Black" was not suited for the hip-hop life.
The film's shocking content not only portrayed Phoenix as a pathetic Diddy hanger-on and a talentless rapper, but also a violent character with an affinity for cocaine and hookers -- an elaborate persona that Phoenix carried on with for nearly two years. With that in mind, we have to wonder, who was the true victim of the prank? Fans who believed the actor was seriously -- and delusionally -- pursuing a hip-hop career, or Phoenix himself?
Björk Says She's Fronting Led Zeppelin
In April 1, 2009, Björk not only came out as a Led Zeppelin superfan, but announced she'd taken a job as the band's new singer, according to her official site. The statement said that Björk took the position out of fear Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was too involved with his collaborations with Alison Krauss to tour, and under the conditions that only songs from Zep's "I" and "IV" would be played. The imaginary tour was "scheduled" to start June 2009.
John Mayer's Bear Costume
2013 Billboard cover star John Mayer might be known for his heart-on-sleeve ballads, but he's also got a wacky sense of humor. In his earlier days, he used to dress up in a bear costume and joke around with fans prior to his concerts, often at his own self-aware expense. VH1 captured one such set of hi-jinx in the clip above.
But Mayer's fans weren't the only ones to get pranked. Throughout a 2006 tour with Sheryl Crow, Mayer had been joining Crow onstage for a performance of their duet "My Favorite Mistake." On the tour's final night, he took the stage wearing the infamous suit. Crow found the surprise so un-bear-able (oh!) that she forgot many of the words to the song's second verse.
Paul Is Dead?
While "Paul is dead" was more of a rumor that The Beatles jokingly furthered than a prank they set out to play, the alleged 1966 death of Paul McCartney remains one of music's greatest tricks. The Fab Four's press rep, Derek Taylor, reportedly deemed the rumor "a load of old rubbish," but the musical clues -- many of which seem more than just coincidental -- kept fans believing.
The urban legend was perpetuated by American DJs and college newspapers, as fans found used lyrical references and iconography on Beatles album art that suggested that Paul, who was involved in a traffic accident in 1967, had actually died. McCartney was reportedly replaced by a look-alike named Billy Shears, who is mentioned by named as the fictional bandleader of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" during the album's title track. Subtle clues from the album's supposedly funeral-inspired album cover sent believers into a frenzy -- a pattern revisited on the "Abbey Road" album cover, which some believed to symbolically portray a funeral procession.
Lyrically, the release of "The White Album" stood as a pointed tongue-in-cheek statement from The Beatles, who have since admitted having fun with the fan-created hoax. "Glass Onion" finds John Lennon singing, "Well, here's another clue for you all/The walrus [a symbol of death] was Paul," while "Paul is dead man/Miss him, miss him, miss him" can be heard when playing "I'm So Tired" backwards, among other mumblings and backwards clues.
McCartney continues to be questioned about "Paul is dead," just as he was by Chris Farley in a famous sketch on "Saturday Night Live" in 1993. Watch above.