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After three years on the blacklist, China lifts gag on Lady Gaga

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 0806 GMT (1606 HKT)
 Lady Gaga poses for Japanese fans while promoting her latest album 'ARTPOP' in November.
Lady Gaga poses for Japanese fans while promoting her latest album 'ARTPOP' in November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China removes Lady Gaga from a blacklist slapped on foreign artists in 2011
  • Censors modify the album art to cover more of the singer's naked body
  • Chinese officials also change one song title, transforming "Sexxx Dreams" to "X Dreams"
  • Her "ARTPOP" album shot to the top of the US charts in November

(CNN) -- Lady Gaga -- the flamboyant and provocative New York-based pop singer -- has been removed from a Chinese government blacklist, allowing her chart-topping new album "ARTPOP" to go on sale legally in China.

But Chinese censors have placed conditions on the album art, inflating a large ball between her legs to cover more of the naked singer's body and adding a pair of black tights to the singer's bare legs.

The cover of her latest album was designed by the American artist Jeff Koons, who specializes in garish and kitsch representations of the banal and everyday.

Chinese officials also changed one song title, transforming "Sexxx Dreams" to "X Dreams."

Following a multi-platform promotional blitz -- which included Lady Gaga wearing a "flying dress" made from a large hovering drone-like contraption -- "ARTPOP" shot to the top of the US charts in November, selling 258,000 copies in its first week.

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But in China, the pop diva's songs had been on a blacklist since 2011, when the Culture Ministry deemed her work to be "creating confusion in the order of the online music market, and damaging the nation's cultural security."

Singling out songs from her album "Born this Way," Chinese authorities identified six Gaga tracks -- "The Edge of Glory," "Hair," "Marry the Night," "Americano," "Judas" and "Bloody Mary" -- as among 100 foreign songs to be placed on a blacklist.

Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" and the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" were also included in the sweep.

The ministry at the time said that foreign songs would be subject to the same censorship requirements as domestic artists. All albums for release must be screened by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Lady Gaga last week responded with enthusiasm to the lifting of the ban on her Twitter feed.

"China has been given the go ahead singer I'm so excited!!!! The Chinese Government approved 'ARTPOP' to be released in China with all 15 songs! Next I hope I can come to perform!," she said on her Twitter account.

While copies of the album have been available in pirate form on the streets and in Beijing's Sanlitun district -- identified by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as a key location for the distribution of counterfeit films and music -- Lady Gaga's distributor Universal Music China was coy about the ban.

Can't believe the black tights, has China become a Islamic country?
Shen Qiaozi, Sina Weibo poster

"I don't think ban is the way to put it," a spokeswoman told CNN. "All Lady Gaga's albums are on sale in China. The newest one is already on sale."

Posters on China's lively social media site Sina Weibo were typically mordant about the lifting of the ban.

"'X Dream' implies the 'China Dream'," said one poster, in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping's slogan about the country pursuing the 'Chinese Dream.' "That must be why those high up in the administration have given it a special pass."

Others, however, were more direct in their criticism.

"Can't stand it, can't believe the black tights, has China become a Islamic country?" said one poster labeled Shen Qiaozi.

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