Two years ago, amid a wider crackdown on illegal downloading, the ministry vowed to keep “poor taste and vulgar content” from the ears of the nation’s youth. This week it handed music websites its latest blacklist of 100 pernicious songs. Unless the record labels submit the songs for official approval, the sites have until 15 September to remove tracks by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and several Asian artists.
Pop music censorship tends to be unwittingly comical because censors show so little understanding of the art form. For every song that is banned, hundreds more explicit ones go unmolested. The accusation of “poor taste and vulgar content” has been levelled at rock’n'roll since its inception – Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t singing about actual balls of fire, you know – and a war on innuendo is a war that is doomed to failure.
Even by its own expansive criteria, the Chinese blacklist defies logic. Why, for example, target six songs from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album yet not the title track’s LGBT anthem? You can see why the censors might balk at Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night (TGIF) , which rhymes “streaking in the park” with “ménage a trois.”