- By Suzanne MerkelsonSuzanne Merkelson is an editorial assistant at Foreign Policy.
Last week, China’s culture ministry added 100 songs to an internet blacklist, including hits by Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and the Backstreet Boys. Chinese music websites have until Sept. 15 to remove the offending songs, unless record labels submit the songs for official approval. The ministry hopes to regulate the "order" of the Internet music scene, noting that songs that "harm the security of state culture must be cleaned up and regulated under the law."
Two years ago, in an attempt to crackdown on China’s widespread illegal downloading, the culture ministry also declared its intentions to keep "poor taste and vulgur content" off Chinese internet airwaves.
Most of the newly-banned songs are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. Lady Gaga leads the American pack with six banned songs off her new album, Born This Way (although curiously, the LGBT-friendly title track was not included on the list).
Of course, one can hardly blame the Chinese government for looking to keep these subversive songs far away from Chinese ears. Let’s take a look at what’s so particularly offensive about these newest banned tunes.
Katy Perry’s "Last Friday Night (TGIF)"
While ostensibly, the culture ministry might have wanted to keep Chinese youth away from Perry’s flippant attitude regarding "ménage a trois" and "blacked out blur[s]", the truly offensive lyric is a celebration of American fiscal irresponsibility:
Last Friday night/ Yeah we maxed our credit cards
China, the single largest holder of American public debt, has some qualms about the voracious American appetite for debt. It makes sense that the government would want to discourage such behavior at home. China’s strategy of intensive exports, with minimal domestic consumption, has been a boon to its burgeoning economy and it’s not about to let an American pop singer threaten 30 years of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Deng Xiaoping trumps Smurfette.
Lady Gaga’s "Hair"
Whenever I’m dressed cool my parents put up a fight / And if I’m hot shot, mom will cut my hair at night / And in the morning I’m short of my identity / I scream, "Mom and dad, why can’t I be who I wanna be, to be?
Gaga doesn’t do much here to show respect for her elders. Famed Chinese philosopher Confucius once described old age as a "good and pleasant thing" which caused one to be "gently shouldered off the stage, but given a comfortable front stall as spectator." With the advent of the one-child policy, Chinese parents, who could traditionally expect that their children would take care of them through old age, now find themselves at the whim of their little emperors. For all the good Gaga does for one’s self-esteem, this song clearly refutes centuries of ancestor worship.
Beyonce’s "Run the World (Girls)"
My persuasion can build a nation/Endless power, with our love we can devour/ You’ll do anything for me …Who are we?/What we run? The world (who run this motha, yeah)
At the start of the 21st century, China’s leaders articulated a policy known as the peaceful rise, an attempt to alleviate global fears about China’s growing economic and political power. In 2004, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said China’s rise "will not come at the cost of any other country, will not stand in the way of any other country, nor pose a threat to any other country." Beyonce’s aggressive attitude toward world domination is not what Wen had in mind.
Backstreet Boys "I Want it That Way"
I want it that way
Maybe "That way" = democracy? Who cares if the song is 12 years old?