1) Lady Gaga
Denied Permit for Indonesia Concert (2012)
Lady Gaga was forced to cancel a sold-out show in Indonesia after Islamic conservatives protested, saying that her sexy clothes and dance moves would corrupt the country's youth. The concert, originally scheduled for June 3, 2012, was opposed by both lawmakers and religious leaders, with some threatening to use physical force to prevent Mother Monster from exiting the plane. It was set to be the biggest show on the Asian leg of her "Born This Way Ball" tour, with fans snapping up tickets to the 52,000-seat show as soon as they went on sale.
"Born Free" Banned From Youtube (2010)
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., is no stranger to censorship. In 2007, her hit single "Paper Planes" was censored by MTV and "Late Night With Dave Letterman" due to its use of gunshots in the rhythm track. (In fact, the song itself is a response to the U.S. government denying her a visa in 2006). So she couldn't have been too surprised when the video for her 2010 single "Born Free" -- which showed red-headed youth being round up and brutally murdered -- was initially rejected by Youtube due to its violent content. Maya was not to worry; fueled by the controversy, the video spread across the Internet like wildfire.
3) Garth Brooks
"The Thunder Rolls" Rejected by Country TV (1991)
Country nice-guy Garth Brooks doesn't seem like the kind of artist to court controversy. But in 1991, the Nashville legend pushed the envelope and portrayed domestic violence in his video for "The Thunder Rolls." Although the clip had the support of women's shelters from the outset, TV networks such as CMT and TNN banned it from their airwaves. Eventually, the song catapulted to the top of the charts the video went on to win the coveted CMA Video of the Year Award.
4) Miley Cyrus
Slanty-Eyed Joke = China Ire (2009)
Miley Cyrus has the bad habit of being photographed doing stupid things. Perhaps the worst was in 2009, when a picture of the teen star showed her slanting her eyes to imitate her Asian friend (who is also in the photo). China was not quite as forgiving as Miley's friend, and the country banned her from performing and operating any business in China. We're not sure what the children of China do for entertainment now that 'Hannah Montana' is off the air.
5) Elvis Costello
Costello Fights the Power, Pisses Off 'SNL' (1977)
In 1977, Elvis Costello and the Attractions got a 'Saturday Night Live' gig filling in for the Sex Pistols, who were denied U.S. work visas. Costello wanted to play his hit song "Radio Radio," but 'SNL' creator Lorne Michaels refused, saying that the song presented anti-media feelings. The band started to play their track "Less Than Zero" instead, but defiantly switched to "Radio" eight seconds into the song. Costello would not step foot on the 'SNL' set for 12 years later. In 1999, he "crashed" the show's 25th anniversary party to join the Beastie Boys for a winking rendition of the song.
"Justify My Love" Feels No Love From MTV (1990)
Back in 1990, before Madonna discovered Kabbalah, yoga or Malawi, she occupied herself with making titillating music videos designed to excite, and sometimes offend its viewer. Her most outrageous piece of eye candy was "Justify My Love," whose raunchiness makes Lady Gaga look like Mother Theresa. The black & white clip shows Madge in various states of undress engaging in naughty acts with men, women and a few scantily-clad people of questionable genders. MTV, who was all set to premiere the clip, banned it outright once they got the first peek. But the controversy only piqued the interest in the clip -- 260,000 VHS copies of the video were sold, and the song spent two weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
7) Marilyn Manson
Utah Shuns Marilyn (1994)
Marilyn Manson was just gaining notoriety in 1994, but the group had already become public enemy No. 1 in Utah, where they were barred from performing after its freaky frontman ripped apart the Book of Mormon onstage during a Salt Lake City concert. The ban was later lifted, but Marilyn was up to his old tricks when he rolled through town in 2009 (see video above).
8) The Beatles
BBC Forces Fab Four Off the Air (1967)
They're often cited as the greatest band of all time, but not even the Beatles were impervious to the power of the BBC. Back in 1967, the Far Four were banned from British radio not once, but twice! Both "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life" from their genre-defining 'Sgt. Pepper's' album were forbidden airply, as they were thought to encourage drug use. (If that were grounds for banning a song today, Snoop Dogg wouldn't have a career!)
"Smack My Bitch Up" Offends Feminists (1997)
What do button-pushers Madonna, Pink, Lady Gaga and British electronic band Prodigy have in common? Music director Jonas Akerlund. In 1997, Prodigy enlisted the famed filmmaker to shoot the video for their club-killing single "Smack My Bitch Up." The clip shows the first-person view of someone going out to a club, doing heavy drugs, violently harassing innocent bystanders and having sex with a stripper. Even though the protagonist is revealed to be female, the twist was not enough to curb feminist groups who took offense to the video's misogynist overtones. Even today, fans are hard-pressed to find the video's uncensored version anywhere.
"Relapse" Commercial Too Bloody for TV (2009)
Eminem figured the best way to market his 2009 album "Relapse" was to film a teaser ad that showed him soaking in a bathtub overflowing with blood. The censors disagreed and the video was only circulated online. (Side note: Doesn't the ad remind you of Britney Spears' less gruesome bathtub scene from "Everytime." Oops… he did it again.)
11) Sinead O'Connor
Sinead Rips Pope, Gets Lifetime 'SNL' Ban (1992)
In '92, Irish songstress Sinead O'Connor appeared on 'Saturday Night Live' and performed an a capella version of Bob Marley's protest song "War." During rehearsals, the singer ended the song by ripping up a photo of a child. But when the live cameras rolled, Sinead shocked viewers by tearing a picture of Pope John Paul II while exclaiming "Fight the real enemy!" 'SNL' creator Lorne Michaels vowed they would be the last words Sinead would ever utter on the show. O'Connor, who later became an ordained priest, said her actions were meant to make a statement against child abuse in the Catholic Church.
12) Dixie Chicks
The Chicks Diss Bush, Get Banned (2003)
When Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines exclaimed that she was ashamed Pres. George W. Bush's was from Texas during a London concert in 2003, Country radio fired back. Cumulus Broadcasting quickly banned the Chicks music from its 262 stations, and even held an event where listeners were invited to have Dixie Chicks CDs bulldozed. The controversy went all the way to Washington during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, where future Presidential candidate John McCain called the fact that giant radio groups could ban a band's music because of a political statement an "erosion of the First Amendment."
13) Snoop Dogg
Tha Doggfather Nixed From U.K. (2006)
Few artists know what it's like to be banned more than Snoop Dogg. In 2006, the rapper and his entourage sparked a mini riot at London's Heathrow airport when they were denied entry into the British Airways first-class lounge - which resulted in a lifetime ban from the airline. The incident - coupled with his multiple drug arrests and firearm offenses - led to Tha Doggfather being banned from the U.K. entirely in 2007. Adding insult to injury, Snoop's visa application to Australia was also denied later that year, with the country's Immigration Minister saying "He doesn't seem the sort of bloke we want in this country." But things are recently looking up for Snoop - his U.K. ban was finally lifted in 2010.
14) Cypress Hill
DJ Muggs Lights Up 'SNL' (1993)
Rap outfit and pot promoters Cypress Hill lived up to every rock n' roll stereotype when they hit the 'SNL' set as a musical guest in 1993. Not only did the band's DJ Muggs light up a joint during their live performance, the group also trashed their set while the cameras rolled, making the whole Ashlee Simpson incident seem like child's play in comparison. That's what we call being "Insane in the Brain."
15) Amy Winehouse
U.S.A. Says No, No, No to Winehouse Visa (2008-09)
Before 27-year-old Amy Winehouse died of an accidental alcohol overdose in 2011, the beehived soul star was barred from performing in the United States twice -- once in 2008, which forced her to miss that year's Grammys (where she won 5 awards) and again in 2009, which caused her to cancel her main-stage Coachella slot.
16) Sex Pistols
Banned by the "Queen" (1977)
Original British punks the Sex Pistols weren't afraid of anyone -- and that included Her Royal Highness. In 1977, the band released "God Save the Queen," which called out the "Fascist regime" of the British government. The song was quickly denied airplay on the BBC, but still became one of the Pistols' biggest hits, peaking at number two on the charts. It is speculated that the group did actually have the best-selling single the week of its release, but the powers that be fixed the charts to keep them out of the top slot -- which seems royally unfair.
Ciara's "Ride" Too Hot for BET (2010)
Apparently, the folks over at Black Entertainment Television are not as supportive of Ciara's goodies as we thought. In June 2010, her video for "Ride" -- which features the R&B diva grinding suggestively and riding a mechanical bull (in a wet T-shirt, no less) -- was banned by the network for being too hot for TV. (Were they sleeping when the video for "Love Sex Magic" was released?) Ciara then started working on a video for the songs remix, featuring Andre 3000. This time, no bull.
18) John Lennon
Beatle Barred From New York (1969)
John Lennon, everyone's favorite hippie icon, planned for his second Bed-In to take place in New York in 1969. Unfortunately, the U.S. government denied him access due to past cannabis convictions. (Surely in the late '60s, a cannabis conviction wasn't the most dangerous thing the authorities faced?) Like many anti-war youth of the time, Lennon sought shelter in Canada and staged the peace-promoting protest in Montreal instead.
19) Billie Holiday
"Strange Fruit" Blocked From U.S. Radio (1939)
In the late '30s, American jazz legend Billie Holiday took a poem by Abe Meeropol, which was inspired by the author's horror over lynching of two African-American men, and set the words to music. Holiday was forced to release "Strange Fruit" on a specialty label, as her main record company refused to allow her to record it. The social and political context of the song ignited a firestorm of controversy, and U.S. radio refused to touch it. Still, the song became the singer's biggest hit and was even added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002.
Tibet Improv Earns China Ban (2008)
The last time Björk performed in China might be the last time she ever performs in China. In 2008, the Icelandic chanteuse closed her concert with the song "Declare Independence." At the track's conclusion, the singer repeatedly yelled "Tibet! Tibet!" in protest to China's 58-year occupation of the territory. The act effectively put Björk on China's long list of people no longer allowed in the country.
21) Chris Brown
Britain's Got Talent, Just Not Chris Brown's (2010)
In June 2010, Chris Brown joined the list of musicians banned from an entire country. The R&B star was due to embark on a mini-tour in the land of fish and chips, but their immigration department considered him a safety threat, due to his assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, and denied him a visa. Brown postponed his shows, with promoters urging fans to keep their tickets.