The story behind the songs – 2018 Music Freedom Day

21 February 2018


To highlight the importance of music freedom and spotlight voices from across the world, Music Freedom Day 2018 presents a Spotify playlist of 21 songs by artists who have been silenced.

To learn more about these artists and how their voices have been silenced, see the full list below and listen to the playlist!

The Songs

9ice – Living Thing

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Nigeria declared the song “Not To Be Broadcasted” without any official statement on the reason.


Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort

From the 2017 album Everything Now, Arcade Fire had their song ‘Creature Comfort’ censored on Canadian radio stations due to the reference to suicide in the lyrics. The words “suicide”, “dying”, “pills” and “cut” were consequentially removed from the radio edit.


Becky G – Mayores

Prior to her performance on the Spanish reality show ‘Operación Triunfo’, she was forced to change the lyrics to her popular song ‘Mayores’ due to “sexually explicit” language.



BIGBANG lead track “Fxxk It” from their most recent album “Made” was not permitted to air after the National broadcaster in Korea, KBS, deemed the lyrics inappropriate. In particular, the word “yangachi”, which translates to “thug” or “scumbag”, was been flagged as too vulgar.


The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays

As the Gulf War began in 1990, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) banned 67 songs from airplay, including ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ by The Boomtown Rats.


Cairokee – Dinosaur

On 2 July 2017, the Egyptian Censorship Board rejected four songs from being released on Cairokee’s new album “No’ta Beida” (A Drop of White). Cairokee is a band known for its songs that express the spirit of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, some of which have been used as anthems by protesters.


Jeys Marabini – Usiko

On 24 November 2017, Zimbabwean musician Jeys Marabini and his band were attacked by audience members for singing in their native Ndebele language during their performance at the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.


Katy Perry – Chained to the Rhythm

United States singer Katy Perry was the latest artist to be ‘indefinitely’ banned from China after wearing a sunflower dress at her 2015 concert in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. The sunflower has become a symbol of the anti-China movement in Taiwan, with the singer also draping a Taiwan flag on herself.


L7a9ed (el Haqed) – Boycottez

L7a9ed, also known as el Haqed, rose to popularity after his participation in the 2011 20 February Movement amid the Arab Spring. Since then, has been imprisoned in Morocco three times for his artistic and political expressions, and now lives in Belgium.


Lorde – Hard Feelings / Loveless

In December 2017, Lorde cancelled her concert in Tel Aviv, Israel following calls for the singer to withdraw from performing in Israel due to the ongoing BDS movement. Lorde said of the cancellation that “I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show.”


Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee & Justin Bieber – Despacito

Despite being the most streamed song in the world, ‘Despacito’ was been banned from all public media in Malaysia because of the “obscene” lyrics.


Mashrou’ Leila – Bint El Khandaq

On 25 September 2017, Egyptian authorities arrested seven people for waving a rainbow flag at a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo.

Egypt’s Musicians Syndicate has since banned Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila from performing in the country due to the lead singer being openly gay and addressing LGBT issues in the band’s music.


Metallica – One

Throughout 2017, heavy metal band Metallica’s concerts in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai had certain songs removed from their setlists due to China’s censorship policies.


Olamide – Science Student

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in Nigeria declared Olamide’s song “Not To Be Broadcasted” due to the song referencing and discussing drug use.


Radiohead – Man of War

Music fans enjoying a special worldwide release event on 17 June 2016 for rock band Radiohead’s latest album at record store Velvet Indieground in the Cihangir district of Istanbul were attacked by a mob of about 20 men who took offense to people listening to music and drinking alcohol during Ramadan.


Roger Waters – The Last Refugee

During 2017, German Public Broadcasters refused to promote the broadcastings of Roger Waters concerts due to his support of Palestine and involvement in the BDS movement. 


Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin – Je t’aime… moi non plus

The 1969 version of this song reached number one in the UK and number two in Ireland, but was banned in several countries due to its overtly sexual content.


Sherine – Katar Kheri

On 12 December 2017, Egyptian singer Sherine was banned from performing any concerts for two months by the Musicians Syndicate she suggested at a UAE concert last year that drinking from the River Nile could make someone ill. Following the performance ban, Sherine was arrested and faces trial for “spreading provocative publicity” for the comments.


Skepta – Shutdown

British Grime artist Skepta was heavily muted at the 2017 BRIT Awards during his performance of ‘Shutdown’.


Thomas Helmig – Stupid Man

Danish musician Thomas Helmig’s album and hit song ‘Stupid Man’ (S***** Man) was censured by iTunes in 2010. According to iTunes, the lyrics of Stupid Man were too strong for the streaming service.


Years and Years – Desire

The music video for Years and Years’ popular song ‘Desire’ was censored in Russia due to the video featuring a kiss between two men. In Russia, there is a current country-wide ban on “promotion” of homosexuality.

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