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“Born Free”

[N.E.E.T. / XL / Interscope; 2010]

By ; July 7, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

M.I.A. is an artist who has always seemed to be more appealing in theory than in practice. Well, that’s a bit misleading. The Sri-Lankan singer, rapper, politician and general idealist has always had a strong persona in both the music and political world, and in this respect, her actions have more than represented her ideas. Whether it be controversial videos, paranoia tinged claims against certain governments or DIY journalism, the past few months have seen Mathangi Arulpragasam making her mark multiple fields except, notably, that of music. M.I.A.’s mix of hip-hop, dance and world music has often, at least for this listener, sounded a lot better when written about then through speakers. While reaching many creative peaks, many songs off previous albums seem flat and unmemorable, albeit with the potential for much more.

The first song heard (although technically not the first official release) off the upcoming /\/\ /\ Y /\ is “Born Free”, a track that seems to take equal parts from punk and dance. The album was, according to its maker, intended as a “digital ruckus,” and at least this one song reinforces that idea. Lyrically, it seems to serve as something of a manifesto, announcing M.I.A.’s intentions for her album and perhaps herself as an idea, to the world. Maya echos out lines like “I throw this shit in your face when I see you/ Cause I got something to say” over infectious bass and drums, declaring that she was “born free.” While just as frantic as many numbers off Kala, this track comes off as a tighter, more focused effort, doing less testing of the sonic boundaries and more straight out rocking. Both musically and lyrically, the song speaks volumes to M.I.A.’s image and ideals, and perhaps the finer line between her music and her politics is what makes this song so much more accessible than many of her past releases. If nothing else, it serves as a perfect theme song for the global image that M.I.A. is presenting- if you’re ever asked to explain what M.I.A. is all about, just send them “Born Free.”


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