Skip to main content

Maya Arulpragasam, also known as the global-genre pop star M.I.A., once pinky-wrestled the Dos Equis commercial's World's Most Interesting Man - and won. Yeah, the British-Sri Lankan is an intriguing gal, with legs and a life story that just won't quit. She has a provocateur's instinct, and her mystique has grown in advance of her third album, the bold disc she describes as "schizophrenic," simply titled Maya.

(Actually, it's not simply titled; /\/\/\Y/\ is the typographically stylized version found on the album cover.)

"I'll throw this shit in your face when I see ya," she sing-shouts on Born Free, "coz I got something to say." Sometimes too much to say: The video for Born Free was quickly banned from YouTube play for its intense depiction of mistreated red-haired boys. The song, a hellish thrill ride based on an intimidating sample from Suicide's 1977 synth-punk composition Ghost Rider, rants against religion, oppression and possibly Lady Gaga ("and imitators, yeah stick it").

Story continues below advertisement

Over all, the album is a mix of her hectic, eventful collages (alarm noises, jet swooshes, drill sounds, and drum beats hammered home like Lebron James-dribbled basketballs), but with new adventures in melody. One of the album's producers, former boyfriend Diplo, convinced M.I.A. to sing, which she does adequately (if a little flatly) on Tell Me Why, a colourful, swaying number that would have played well at the World Cup in South Africa.

Tell Me Why notwithstanding, there's less of a Third World vibe here. On XXXO, though she spits a beauty ("Cuz you tweetin' me like Tweety Bird"), M.I.A. seems bored with the Euro-flavoured dance-pop.

In a controversial recent interview with Lynn Hirschberg of The New York Times Magazine, M.I.A. had a quote - "give war a chance" - taken out of context. In the deadpan electro-rap of Lovalot, inspired by a well-publicized incident involving a slain Islamic terrorist and his vengeful suicide-bombing Russian wife, M.I.A. commiserates. Through the mischievous dropping of a "t," the line "I really love a lot" sounds an awful lot like "I really love Allah." Also, the alleged Tamil Tiger sympathizer justifies eye-for-an-eye violence: "I fight the ones that fight me."

Communication technology - "a digital ruckus" - concerns M.I.A., who theorizes on The Message that Google is a search engine controlled by the government. On the trance-drone of Space, even the phones lines are down, disconnecting a pair of lovers.

What's M.I.A.'s own message? On an adventurous, bombs-away album of eclectic club music, perhaps she means to say stay thirsty, my friends, stay thirsty.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to