I’m wondering what readers think of the long profile of M.I.A. in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. The author of the piece, Lynn Hirschberg, seems to have gotten pretty much unprecedented access to the Sri Lankan/British/American star, who recently had a child.
For Hirschberg, the high point in terms of subversive M.I.A. performances was the Grammys in 2009, when M.I.A. appeared on stage with four male rap stars, nine months pregnant. Apparently her contractions started while on stage! But Hirschberg also has some pointed comments on some of M.I.A.’s recent work, including the strange (I thought, awful) video to “Born Free.” Here is Hirschberg’s account of it:
Unlike, say, her performance at the Grammys, which was a perfect fusion of spectacle (a nine-months-pregnant woman rapping in a see-through dress) with content (Maya’s fervor was linked to the music), the video for “Born Free” feels exploitative and hollow. Seemingly designed to be banned on YouTube, which it was instantly, the video is set in Los Angeles where a vague but apparently American militia forcibly search out red-headed men and one particularly beautiful red-headed child. The gingers, as Maya called them, using British slang, are taken to the desert, where they are beaten and killed. The first to die is the child, who is shot in the head. While “Born Free” is heard in the background throughout, the song is lost in the carnage. As a meditation on prejudice and senseless persecution, the video is, at best, politically naÃ¯ve. (link)
I’m not so much interested in M.I.A’s particular politics, which I’ve disagreed with in the past. Yes, she has a very emotional, oversimplified account of recent events in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers in particular — let’s not have that fight again.
I’m more wondering what kind of image of the artist and performer we get from this article. Does M.I.A. really know what she’s doing? She’s had an album that was a big Indie hit (“Arular”), and one major commercial success, with “Paper Planes,” (off “Kala”); and there were several other solid, highly creative tracks off that second album. Given how important her producers are in her creative process, is it even fair to say that she’s at the helm of her own ship? Do you think she’s due for another success with her upcoming third album, or is her current direction a musical misfire, born of too much self-indulgence?
Finally, what did readers think of the second single off the as-yet unreleased new album, XXXO?