Artists with uncompromising musical vision and an outspoken message are often targeted by oppressive regimes. Sinead O'Connor told us to fight the real enemy, the Dixie Chicks pissed off Texas, and now the Backstreet Boys are threatening the cultural security of China.
Well, let me hedge that a little bit. "I Want It That Way," the now twelve-year-old ballad by the Backstreet Boys (in retrospect, possibly the most overtly homoerotic boy-band name of the '90s), was targeted as part of a list of 100 songs that never received approval from the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and therefore have to be removed from the country's music downloading sites. The list also includes "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry, and "Judas" by some unknown up-and-comer called Lady Gaga (trust me, she's gonna be huge).
Gaga actually had a full six songs on the list, all from her most recent album. To be fair, the Ministry hasn't said the songs are objectionable per se, they just haven't been cleared for distribution. The rule is meant to preserve China's "national cultural security," according to officials.
The Chinese government rigorously screens imported entertainment for political messages or commentary that might run counter to its official part line. Past examples of this include movies about time travel, video games, and any mention of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre.
Apparently, much of the scrutiny on foreign musical acts can be traced to a 2008 Bjork concert in Shanghai where the singer yelled "Tibet!" after performing a song called "Declare Independence," which is exactly the kind of half-assed, pseudo-rebellious thing Bjork would do. Now, millions of Chinese people are deprived of the three minutes and forty seconds of heaven that is "I Want It That Way."
Way to go, Iceland.