Friday, June 11, 2010

WAR CRIMES & FRENCH FRIES


(M.I.A. Onstage At The Grammys)

As we ALL know by now, there was a "controversial" hack piece about M.I.A., written by the queen of the hacks Lynn Hirschberg. The piece was for the New York Times Magazine. I found the piece to be typical Hirschberg-ian yellow journalism (from the Albert Goldman school) with all the cheap shots, pathetic grabs for controversy and the (usual...and BORING) attempts to paint the artist as a) soft-headed b) hypocritical c) untalented d) merciless e) greedy f) banal. I am not here to defend M.I.A. beyond saying that the first time I ever saw/heard her was in the Bucky Done Gun video, where I was equally knocked out by the song, and by the video itself. With M.I.A.'s second album, Kala, I feel she became a majour artist. So majour in fact, that I truly feel M.I.A. is, to some extent the "music of the future" I've been envisioning for a number of years. M.I.A. truly is a global artist, and no not because she's from Sri Lanka and raised in England. What I mean is, on her records are the voices of Aborigines, Nigerians, Indians, Sri Lankans, Europeans, Americans, and musical references from Bollywood to ancient ritualistic drumming, to virtually the entire history of hip-hop, to the most sophisticated set of punk influences from someone not directly making "punk" music I've ever come across. One of the first things I ever thought about M.I.A. was that even though I thought her lyrics were very good, if I just listened to her voice, it sounded like she was singing/rapping/intoning/chanting in about five languages (modern and archaic) all at once. Is M.I.A. musical? Yes...obviously, I listen to her music and love it. There, thats musical. So she's not Robert Fripp...who cares the vast majority of his music I would never want to hear again. I think Hirschberg and others (critics who gave all the credit to producer, Diplo) use the "shes not musical" thing as a stick to beat her with and try to minimize her talent, and reduce her own presence on her own records. Which is (once again) obviously both stupid and absurd. As for M.I.A.'s "image", as in visual sense...once again no one EVER criticized Michael Stipe (who's just as "unmusical") for designing album covers, directing videos, arranging stage concepts as well as singing. M.I.A. has a visual sense and level of talent as impeccable and unique as her music. Why on Earth this is used against her is entirely beyond me. Is racism or sexism a part of it? What do YOU think? Speaking of racism and sexism...there's M.I.A.'s politics. Her politics may be "messy" or "contradictory", but I fail to see why that is in any way a problem. Look at her background, look at her artistic aesthetics, uncomfortable, jarring juxtapositions, and seemingly contradictory elements are what make up her work. Her life has informed her art. Her art informs her worldview. M.I.A. is not a politician, and not a political theorist...she is making art. Not something to stand up idiotic levels of "analysis", or fuck, even "logic". Art transcends all of that, anyway, M.I.A.'s certainly does, combines the intuitive with the intellectual, the moment with the movement. And yes, the multiple meaning term "movement" is used on purpose. When activism is presented as art, then whatever the artist decides is activism as an extension of creating a "happening" or "event" is totally valid, and really only a snide, small minded fuck would argue to contrary.



Here is the unexpurgated New York Times Magazine Article-


(M.I.A. Photo Accompanying NY Times Article)

On the Grammy Awards in 2009, Maya Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., performed her biggest hit, “Paper Planes,” a rap song that infuses rebellious, defiant lyrics with the sounds of her native Sri Lanka, a riff lifted from the Clash, the bang-bang of a gun and the ka-ching of a cash register. Maya, as she is called, was nine months pregnant (to the day), and while she was onstage rapping about “some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go” — in a black skintight, body-stocking dress, transparent except for polka-dot patches that strategically covered her belly, breasts and derrière — she began to experience contractions. As the pain hit, Maya was performing with the male titans of rap (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I.) and she later told me that she thought all the free-floating testosterone caused her to go into labor. While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel. In contrast to, say, Bono or John Lennon, with their peacenik messages, Maya taps into her rage at the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka to espouse violence: while you’re under the sway of the beat, she’s rapping, “You wanna win a war?/Like P.L.O. I don’t surrender.”

Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait. The combination of being nearly naked, hugely pregnant, singing incendiary lyrics and having the eyes of the world upon her was too much to resist. And she was riveting, upstaging the four much more famous guys and dominating the stage. “That’s gangsta,” said Queen Latifah, one of the show’s presenters.

Three days later, her son, Ikhyd (pronounced I-kid) Edgar Arular Bronf­man, was born. His father is Maya’s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. In one of many contradictions that seem to provide the narrative for Maya’s life and art, Ikhyd was not, as she had repeatedly announced he would be, born at home in a pool of water. As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”

As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills. Before the Grammys, Maya and Bronfman moved to Los Angeles from New York, buying a house in very white, very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings. “L.A. is a lovely place to have a baby,” Maya said. She’s surprisingly petite and ladylike, with beautiful almond-shaped dark brown eyes and full lips that she painted a deep red the day we met. Maya has a unique tomboy-meets-ghetto-fabulous-meets-exotic-princess look that, like her music, manages to combine sexy elements (lingerie peeks out from under her see-through tops) with individual flourishes (she designs elaborate patterns for her nails) and ethnic accents (the bright, rich prints of Africa are her wardrobe staple). Like all style originals, Maya wears her clothes with great confidence — she knows how to edit her presentation for maximum effect. At the Beverly Wilshire, she was wearing high-heeled pumps with leggings under a hip-length, sheer white tunic woven with gold threads and an outsize black jacket that looked as if it might be on loan from her boyfriend. Her only jewelry was a simple diamond engagement ring.

“We went to the Grammys, we had the baby and we bought the house,” Maya said as she studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries. “A month later, all this stuff was happening in Sri Lanka” — the Tamil insurgency was being defeated amid reports of thousands of civilian casualties — “and I started speaking up against it. And then, within a month, I found out my house was being bugged, my phones were being tapped and my e-mails were being hacked into. I was getting death threats, like ‘hope your baby dies.’ The biggest Sinhalese community is in Santa Monica, people who are sworn enemies of the Tamils, which is me.” She paused. “I live around the corner from Beverly Hills, and I feel semiprotected by Ben and, if anything happens to me, then Ben’s family will not take it. Jimmy Iovine, who runs Interscope, my record company, said, ‘Pick your battles carefully — don’t put your life at risk,’ but at the end of the day, I don’t see how you can shut up and just enjoy success when other people who don’t have the fame or the luxury to rent security guards are suffering. What the hell do they do? They just die.”

Maya’s tirade, typical in the way it moved from the political to the personal and back again, was interrupted by a waiter, who offered her a variety of rolls. She chose the olive bread. Maya’s political fervor stems from her upbringing. Although she was born in London, her family moved back to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old, to a country torn by fighting between the Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. In the ’70s, her father, Arular, helped found the Tamil militant group EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students), trained with the P.L.O. in Lebanon and spearheaded a movement to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. EROS was eventually overwhelmed by a stronger and more vicious militant group, the Tamil Tigers. In their struggle for political control, the Tigers not only went after government troops and Sinhalese civilians but also their own people, including Tamil women and children. “The Tigers ruled the people under them with an iron fist,” Ahilan Kadirgamar at Sri Lanka Democracy Forum told me. “They used mafia­like tactics, and they would forcefully recruit child soldiers. Maya’s father was never with the Tigers. He stayed away.”

In 1983, when she was 8, Maya, her mother and her two siblings moved to London. Her father stayed in Sri Lanka. Throughout her music career, which began in 2004, and especially around the time of the Grammys, Maya has used the spotlight to call attention to Tamil grievances. She named her first album “Arular,” after her father. Even though her father was not a Tiger, she also used tigers on her Web site and her album artwork and she favored tiger-striped clothing. This was not an accident. By the time her first album came out, the Tamil cause was mostly synonymous with the cause of the Tamil Tigers. Maya, committed to the cause, allied herself with the group despite its consistent use of terror tactics, which included systematic massacres of Sinhalese villagers. (In turn, government forces were known to retaliate against Tamil villages and were accused of supporting death squads.)

In the press, Maya was labeled a terrorist sympathizer by some; others charged her with being unsophisticated about the politics of Sri Lanka. “People in exile tend to be more nationalistic,” Kadirgamar said. “And Maya took a very simplistic explanation of the problems between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese government and the Tamils. It’s very unfair when you condemn one side of this conflict. The Tigers were killing people, and the government was killing people. It was a brutal war, and M.I.A. had a role in putting the Tigers on the map. She doesn’t seem to know the complexity of what these groups do.”

But many of her fans didn’t listen too closely to her lyrics, concentrating instead on the beat, the newness of the sound and her own multiculti, many-layered appeal. She was an instant indie darling (although “Arular” sold only 190,000 copies in the United States). Her songs were creative and abrasive in an intoxicating way, and it didn’t hurt that Maya was absolutely great looking. She quickly became a style icon: like that of all great pop stars, her anger and spirit of revolution was mitigated by sex.

“Maya had all the pieces of the puzzle,” Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Records, told me. “When I met her, I thought, Who wouldn’t want to sign her? Her politics didn’t matter to me. The whole game is about waiting for that moment to move popular culture. Maya can move the needle. I want to go where she’s going to take me.”
Iovine may have instinctively realized that in fusing style, music and controversy, Maya evoked Madonna. While Madonna has always been more interested in writing melodious, catchy pop songs and less interested in niche hipster credibility than Maya, they share a gift for grand self-invention. Like Madonna, Maya is not a trained musician but instead a brilliant editor, able to pick and choose and bend the talents of others to fit her goals. They share an enormous appetite and a discerning eye for the intertwined worlds of fashion, art and music. “Madonna is the one,” Maya said. “Madonna did amazing songs. She had an amazing sense of style, without a stylist. And she was flawed, and sometimes she admitted it. I’ll fight the fight for Madonna. I think she should send me some chocolates or something to thank me.”

Yet while Madonna stuck to sex and the Catholic church for her headlines, Maya is compelled by a violent separatist movement and the politics of resistance. Her allegiances have fueled her music and her rhetoric. In January 2009, while the civil war in Sri Lanka was raging, Maya repeatedly referred to the situation as a “genocide.” “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” Maya told me. “He’s not from Africa — I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here’s your opportunity to help.’ And no one did.”

Her rhetoric rankles Sri Lankan experts and human rights organizations, who are engaged in the difficult task of helping to forge a viable model for national unity after decades of bitter fighting. “Maya is a talented artist,” Kadirgamar told me, echoing the sentiments of others, “but she only made the situation worse. What happened in Sri Lanka was not a genocide. To not be honest about that or the Tigers does more damage than good. When Maya does a polarizing interview, it doesn’t help the cause of justice.”

Unity holds no allure for Maya — she thrives on conflict, real or imagined. “I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.”

AFTER BUYING THEIR home in Brentwood, Maya and Bronfman, whom she met in New York shortly after the breakup of his band, the Exit, decided to build a recording studio in the house. “It was very grown-up,” Maya recalled when we were in L.A. Bronfman, who is tall, soft-spoken and protective of his fiancée, now works with Global Thermostat, a technology company that is working on ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and is a founder of Green Owl, an environmentally conscious record label and sustainable-clothing line. “Everyone got so freaked out when they heard we bought the house,” Maya continued. “When we moved in, we imported all our English friends. Suddenly, everyone was living with us — eight people at once. For the first time, I had something called the comfort of your own house, and it turned into a commune: they all came for two days, and they never left. My producer, Blaqstarr, was living there. And then Cherry, who sings with me, was staying with us. And Rusko, who was also producing, was there all the time. My brother arrived. And in the end, we had three people to a room. We ended up buying a second house for everyone to live in.”

In August 2009, they started recording Maya’s third album, which will be out in early July but still didn’t have a title when I saw her in March. “We’re one big, horrible family,” Rusko said when I called him in Los Angeles, where he moved permanently, to talk about making the record. Blaqstarr also moved to L.A. “We follow Maya,” he said. “Her studio was like a biodome connected to her house. I lived in the studio. Everybody was hanging out; there was only one kitchen, and we’d all meet up in the kitchen.”

When Richard Russell, the head of XL Recordings, Maya’s British label, visited the house, he told her it reminded him of how the Rolling Stones recorded the classic album “Exile on Main St.” in a villa in the South of France in the ’70s. “I told Richard I felt so disconnected from the world I had known,” Maya recalled. “And he said, ‘The best music can come out of that.’ It was certainly different. I’d be writing lyrics upstairs, and Blaqstarr would be doodling downstairs, and I’d hear bass lines through the floorboards. I’d get inspired and leave the baby monitor on and go down to the studio. There is almost no cellphone reception at my house, and we couldn’t always find our land lines. It was easy to shut the outside world out. And I was making music for me again.”
The album (“I’m thinking of naming the record Nano, because nano bombs are the hip thing”) is still dominated by political lyrics, but the music is more melodic. On several tracks, Maya even sings. “I had to try,” Maya said.

Diplo said, “I made her sing.” He was a producer of her first album as well as “Paper Planes” and was also Maya’s boyfriend for several years. “Maya is a big pop star now, and pop stars sing,” he said. “For me, making this record wasn’t easy. In the past, we were a team. But Maya wanted to show us how much she didn’t need us. In the end, Maya is postmodern: she can’t really make music or art that well, but she’s better than anyone at putting crazy ideas into motion. She knows how to manipulate, how to withhold, how to get what she wants.”

What Maya wants is nearly impossible to achieve: she wants to balance outrageous political statements with a luxe lifestyle; to be supersuccessful yet remain controversial; for style to merge with substance. “If you want to be huge, you have to give up a lot,” Michelle Jubelirer, Maya’s longtime lawyer, told me. “Maya vacillates between wanting to be huge and maintaining her artistic integrity. That’s her dilemma.”

On a crisp, sunny day in mid-April in London, Maya and her publicist, Jennie Boddy, were in a car being driven to the home of a Sri Lankan wedding photographer. Instead of doing standard publicity photos to promote her still nameless album, Maya had the idea of using a photographer she found in the phone book who worked, as many Sri Lankan photographers do, in an almost Bollywood style, by inserting a simple picture, in this case of Maya, into dozens of fantastic, almost surrealistic tableaus. A few days ago, Maya hatched this plan, which like most Maya plans was inventive, artistic and, in an unsettling way, combined the high with the low. “I’ve had my eye on some jewelry from Givenchy forever,” Maya told me, as we inched our way in bumper-to-bumper traffic. “It is millions of dollars’ worth of gold jewelry. To wear it for these pictures, Givenchy had to send a bodyguard. I liked the idea of a photographer shooting me in his council flat in all this gold, knowing that the jewelry requires a bodyguard.” She paused. She was wearing opaque brown stockings, very small, tan leather shorts that laced up the front, high-heeled ankle boots and a fluorescent yellow bra that periodically flashed through a loose, open-knit Phat Farm sweater topped by an oversize dark brown jacket. Maya’s nearly black hair was pulled into a bun on top of her head, her nails were colored in an elaborate checkerboard pattern and she had applied a dark indigo powder to her eyebrows. It was an exotic mix: her body was downtown and her face was uptown. “All of what I’m wearing is American,” Maya said. “If I was a terrorist, I wouldn’t be wearing American clothing.” She paused. This may have been a joke, but Maya rarely laughs. She speaks carefully, slowly, with a kind of deadpan delivery. Like a trained politician, she stays on message. It’s hard to know if she believes everything she says or if she knows that a loud noise will always attract a crowd.

Maya had flown to London nearly a month before and was living with Ikhyd at her mother’s apartment an hour outside the city. Initially, she came to see her mom and work on the album art and the first video, for the song “Born Free,” which is, strangely, not the first single. But she needed to renew her U.S. visa, and until her immigration lawyer could resolve the matter, Maya was stuck in London. “I want to be back in New York by May 3,” she said, staring out the window. “I’m invited to the Met Ball, and all my girlfriends say: ‘Oh, the Met Ball! I want to go to the Met Ball!’ ” The annual Met Ball for the Costume Institute is a yearly black-tie gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is co-hosted by Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. “I’m going with Alexander Wang” — the fashion designer — “and I wanted to wear a dress made out of a torn-up American flag,” Maya added. Wang made a hand-crocheted, gold-metallic dress over a black leather bodice instead.

Maya has a complicated relationship with America. When she was recording “Kala,” in 2007, her second album (named after her mother), her request for an artist’s visa was initially denied. (Maya maintains it was because of her song lyrics; the State Department is not obliged to give applicants a reason for denying them entry.) She had wanted to make a more classic hip-hop record in Baltimore, where Blaqstarr then lived, or with Timbaland in L.A. but instead, recorded it all over the world. She traveled to Liberia, India, Angola, Trinidad and Jamaica (“where they have the cutest boys”). “Kala” is layered with sounds like tribal beats, dance hall and the lush musical productions of Bollywood. One track, “Bird Flu,” combines 30 of India’s top drummers in a crazy rush of rhythm. Maya was finally granted a visa and recorded “Paper Planes” in New York, but came back to England so that two sets of twins from Brixton could sing the backing vocals. She felt this inclusion made a kind of political statement at a time when England was spending millions of pounds on weapons and war. However incoherent the reason, the chorus of “Paper Planes” is contagious. “I never thought the song was political,” Diplo told me. “Mostly, Maya was making fun of American rapper culture. ‘Paper Planes’ was making fun of being what American kids are into, of being ‘gangsta.’ ”
She also recorded a song, “O Saya,” with A. R. Rahman, a composer and perhaps the most powerful producer in India, that ended up on the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack. “O Saya” was nominated for an Academy Award, and in 2009, she was to perform on the awards show. “It was after Ikhyd was born,” Maya recalled, “and they told me they’d wheel in a bed and let me perform the song in bed.” She paused. She declined their offer when she found out that the televised song would be edited down to a minute. “It was too little time.”

Maya rolled down her window and pointed. “That church saved my life,” she said, as we drove past a church in East London. “Christ Church! That’s the last time I got to be a high-school dropout: I should have been in school, and a youth worker at the church, who had been in prison, grabbed me and slammed me against the wall one day and said: ‘What is the matter with you? If you stay around here, you’ll end up living in one of these apartments with six babies before you’re 20.’ I used to be hanging about, getting into trouble. He changed my life.”

After leaving Sri Lanka in 1983, her mother moved Maya and her brother and sister to Phipps Bridge Estate, a housing project, or council flat, in South London. It was rough. “We lived in a notoriously racist area called Mitcham,” Maya said. “It’s where all the skinheads lived. I was shot at for being a Tamil in Sri Lanka, and then, everyone was calling me a Paki in London, and I’m not even Pakistani. My mom sat me down and said, ‘When they call you that, tell them to sod off.’ ”

When Maya arrived, she knew only two words in English, she says: “Michael” and “Jackson.” She learned English from the radio, television and newspapers. Her mother, Maya claims, got a job as a seamstress, hand-sewing on medals for the royal family. “She worked for the queen for 25 years,” Maya said, as the car finally emerged from traffic. “And now, they’ve taken my mom’s U.S. visa away. A 65-year-old woman is counted as a terrorist, and America supports that.”

When she was a child, Maya sat under the table while her mother sewed and caught fabric scraps as they fell. “The first thing I made was a bra,” Maya said. “Two circles in pinky red, blue straps.” Her father remained in Sri Lanka (whenever they saw each other, he was introduced to Maya as her uncle, so that the children wouldn’t inadvertently reveal his identity). Maya claims that she has not seen him in years. Diplo told me a different story. “I met her dad in London with her,” he said. “He was very interested in sustainable living and was teaching in London. But he wasn’t a good father.” Whatever the truth is, Maya has gone from trumpeting her father’s revolutionary past in order to claim that lineage to playing down his politics to support a separate narrative. “He was with the Sri Lankan government,” she now maintained, when I saw her in Los Angeles. “He’s been with them for 20 years. They just made up the fact that he is a Tiger so they can talk crap about me.” (Her father could not be reached for comment.)

Maya has always been interested in having a political agenda, no matter how murky. In 1993, Maya applied to Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London; she had decided to become a filmmaker. “I never thought I’d go there,” she says now. “Someone mentioned it to me once — they’re like, ‘Oh, my god, there are so many good-looking people there.’ One day, I was standing outside of it, and I decided I needed to go there. I wanted to make documentaries about people who didn’t have a voice. I wanted to be the messenger.”

During her interview for the school, Maya says, she told the admissions officer that if he didn’t accept her application, she would become a prostitute or a crackhead or the best criminal in the world. “I said to him, ‘Don’t make me do it,’ ” she says now, smiling. “ ‘If you don’t let me in, there’s only one option: I become a hooker.’ He said, ‘That is emotional blackmail.’ It might have been, but I couldn’t stand that one person had that much power over my life, that if he said yes or no, it would change everything.”
He eventually said yes; that in Maya he saw rebellion and that art colleges need rebellion, or at least that’s how she remembers the reaction. For four years, she concentrated on directing movies, but she was not patient enough for the form. “Film is not instant enough for the person I am,” she said. Maya switched to videos (which were faster), and her classmate, Justine Frischmann of the band Elastica, asked her, in 2000, to create the artwork and a video for the band’s second album, “The Menace.” Frischmann and Maya became roommates, and when the two went on vacation to a small island off Saint Vincent in the Caribbean, Maya began tinkering with Frischmann’s Roland MC-505 Groovebox. “I was bored,” Maya recalled. “And I saw the machine. I’m tone deaf and not very musical, but I like dancing, if that counts. I’ve got rhythm. Justine had disappeared for about six hours, and I waited and waited, and I finally thought, I’ll just make something. The second song I made was ‘Galang,’ and I didn’t plan on singing it myself. When we got back, I scouted girls to sing it, and I would tell them, ‘This is how you do it: “Galangalang a lang lang,” ’ and none of them could do it right. So I thought, I need to do it myself.”

If she was reluctant, her nervousness didn’t last long: “Galang,” original and addictive, became her calling card. In 2003, she put “Galang” and two other songs on a 12-inch record. Diplo, whom she had not yet met, was hosting and working as a D.J. at parties in Philadelphia. He was given “Galang” by an editor from i-D magazine in London. He began playing the song and talking up Maya. “I was D.J.ing at a club called Fabric,” he told me, “and when she walked in, I was playing ‘Galang.’ This was before she had a major record deal. She met me, and we started a relationship. Maya was into the whole terrorism gimmick at the time. It was all underground back then. In the beginning, she was trying to be different. She understood that no one was doing what she was doing.”

Even though she had a record out, Maya had never performed. “In 2004, I went onstage for the first time,” she said. “They put a mike in my hand and pushed me out the door into the crowd. I did the three songs I had recorded and got out. It was the worst day of my life.” But it didn’t stop her: she has always been focused. “Maya’s got a lot of hustle,” Richard Russell said admiringly. Russell’s XL Recordings is a small but influential label in Britain that puts out an eclectic mix — Thom Yorke, the White Stripes, Devendra Banhart, Adele, the Horrors. The label’s office is located near Portobello Road in what feels like a cluttered house, the front door nearly undetectable beneath a woodcutlike painting by the artist Stanley Donwood that depicts London being swallowed by a tidal wave.

“In 2003, Maya turned up here and said, ‘I heard you’ve been looking for me,’ ” Russell told me when I went to see him. “She decided that we were going to put out her music. And since Maya is able to will the universe and is an obvious force of nature, I found myself saying yes.”

He was impressed by “Galang,” but he was still hesitant. “There was a lot of cynicism about Maya,” he said. “She wasn’t a musician, and she had no basic musical craft. The label’s ethic is music that’s quite serious, and we work with people where music is not a way to become famous. It’s everything they’re about and, with Maya, people couldn’t see beyond the fact that she wasn’t a musician. Now, as much as I respect musicians, nothing takes the place of ingenuity and inspiration and originality. If you’ve got that spark, something to say and you’re determined enough, it might be quite interesting.”

When Russell signed her, he imagined Maya as a kind of English answer to American hip-hop. Just as the Beatles and the Stones channeled American R & B, Russell said he felt that Maya would rework the sounds of rap music from the States. “England is good at being mongrel,” Russell said. “Maya is a mixture of black American culture, Sri Lankan culture, art, fashion. We mix it up well here and sell it back. As a country, we’ve always known how to do that. You see that in ‘Galang’: the different ethnicities, the art vibe, the Missy Elliot influence. Maya got it right and added to it.”

Until she signed with XL, Maya was working as a clerk in a store called Euphoria. “I was ringing up a sale when Richard called me to tell me he was going to put out my record,” Maya said, as the car pulled up to a housing project in East London. “I told him, ‘You need me!’ and he said, ‘I don’t need you, but I want you.’ ” She smiled. “That was the right answer.”

RAVI THIAGARAJA, THE Sri Lankan photographer, answered the door of his flat and invited Maya in. Unlike most people, Maya is not tethered to her phone (“I have an iPhone,” she told me, in her child-of-Godard mix of politics, paranoia and pop. “I like to be very close to the C.I.A., F.B.I. and Sri Lankan government. I want to be completely reachable at all times”), but she’s never far from her acid yellow Mac laptop, which is inscribed with the M.I.A. logo. Her life is there: song lyrics, ideas for her Web site, the secret video she’s working on, photos of Ikhyd, unfinished artwork and more. As the photographer and his wife ushered us into the living room at the rear of the house, they wished Maya a happy Sri Lankan New Year. “I had no idea it was today,” she said, as she settled into a sofa and clicked open her laptop.

“Would you like some rice pudding?” the photographer asked. Maya explained to me that rice pudding is the traditional celebratory food for the Sri Lankan New Year. Maya said no, and the photographer went to get the pictures.

He handed Maya a disc, and she slid it into her computer. There were dozens of shots, each featuring Maya dripping in gold. She was wearing seven or eight thick gold bracelets on each wrist, heavy earrings and what appeared to be ropes of gold attached at the throat like a tight gold turtleneck. “I wanted to look like an Iranian princess,” Maya said. In the photos, the rest of her outfit was casual: a black hoodie, black T-shirt and black leggings. In each shot, Maya was carefully placed in a scene, like a gold-clad visitor from another planet. In shot after shot, she was perched on different thrones, posing with dancers, encased in a bubble ascending to heaven. Three Mayas were disco-dancing together on a fluorescent Day-Glo floor, two Mayas were facing each other in a heart, multiple Mayas were covered in cascading roses. She was positioned in front of a pyramid, in a pyramid and above a pyramid. In most of the shots, Maya appeared to be a very wealthy deity.

Although she was pleased, Maya, in her editing mode, wanted more options. “I love the car backdrop,” she said. “Do you have one with a yellow Porsche?” Maya studied her computer screen. “This could be a possible album cover,” she said. “And I’d love a calendar, if you can make one. Twelve months of these pictures.”

An hour passed, in which Maya reviewed dozens of other backdrop possibilities. When she’s working, her concentration is total. She rejected a palace shot as being too much like something the Sex Pistols did and nixed a nature scene with a picket fence. It was hard to imagine what the initial photo shoot was like: this flat was so humble and the Givenchy jewelry was so Midas that the contrast, while striking, also seemed a little unkind. And yet, the pictures were fascinating and memorable. Maya’s concept, though somewhat mocking (of both sides), was clever and original. She took an art form that is common in India and added her own flavor to it, which is, more or less, her gift as an artist.

“Are you the singer?” somebody said. A neighbor had come to use the photographer’s computer and saw Maya sitting on the couch, studying her photos. “Uh-huh,” Maya said, looking up. The neighbor seemed stunned. “What are you doing here?” he said. Maya smiled. “Why wouldn’t I be here?” she replied.

THE FOLLOWING NIGHT, at 9 p.m., Maya was at the Alpha Centauri recording studio, sitting in front of a huge soundboard, her computer open on her lap, listening to two versions of “Born Free,” the track that begins her new album. The first “Born Free” was mixed very loud and emphasized the hard drum sample from the band Suicide that anchors the song, while the second version was quieter and more rhythmic, less rock and more rap. “I like the first cut,” said Courcy Magnus, a producer from Philadelphia, who along with his producing partner, Kyle Edwards (who is based in Atlanta), had flown to London to work with Maya. Although her still-untitled record was, technically, finished, there wasn’t a song that popped out to Interscope, Maya’s American label, as a perfect single. They loved the record, but as Diplo told me, “Albums now are a hit song and 11 other songs that are attached to it.” The goal for Magnus and Edwards was to invent that hit.

“I need a beat for this song,” Maya said. She played a short bit of music on her computer. It was a scrap of a song — classic and simple, almost pop. “Melody is not something I do,” Maya said. “I’m trying to do things I can’t do.” The producers nodded, eager to please. “Do you want more creative drums?” Edwards asked. “More percussion?” Maya said nothing. She stared for a second. “Jay-Z should have been on this beat, and he would have had an amazing hit,” she said finally. “I felt like I was doing something that belonged to Jay-Z.”

The producers played her tracks that didn’t have much to do with what Maya had played them. It was a beginning. “Producers are important,” Iovine had told me. “Every song starts with a beat and a sound and that usually comes from the producer. I run my company through record producers. I started out as a record producer. If I let myself go, that’s where the wind takes me. But the trick is — and Maya is amazing at this — to fuse the style of the producer with the artist. Maya is a great judge of what works: she knows how to get the best from her producers.”
Each song is invented differently, but generally Maya likes to whittle her songs down from long jam sessions. “We recorded everything live at the house in L.A.,” Rusko, who produced half the album, including the first single, “XXXO” (which he worked on with Blaqstarr), told me. “We’d record 20-minute takes of Maya doing different vocals and 20 minutes of me doing different beats. On ‘XXXO,’ we tried all this stuff before we got the end result. Maya has ideas that can’t be physically done. She wants this sound or that sound — the tracks already exist in her head. In the end, she has a plan for everything.”

Diplo wasn’t allowed to work at the house (“Her boyfriend really hates me,” he said), so Maya and he recorded “Tell Me Why,” perhaps the closest thing to a pop-radio song on the record, at Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica. “It was my birthday; I was on mushrooms,” he recalled. “It was a special atmosphere: I found the sample” — a patch of music lifted from a song by the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers — “and Maya actually whistled. I did 15 demos for her before she finally chose that track. Even if she hates my guts, she knows that we can do crazy stuff together. The sound on her records is unlike anyone else’s, and we all take that very seriously.”

In London, the mood was different. Although she ended up working in the studio until 5 in the morning, Maya was concentrating on other aspects of the record — the top secret “Born Free” video was set to go viral in a week; she still had to do the artwork for the album; and she had to decide what to call the album. She didn’t seem particularly interested in creating a hit. “If we do another song, I want it to be something new,” she said. “And right now, my mind is on other things.

THE NEXT DAY, we were back in the car, on our way to East London to meet with Hermione de Paula, a design team that Maya wanted to hire to create some clothes for her to wear on tour this summer. “I am so tired of stylists,” Maya said. “They are ruining individual style. If Patti Smith was starting now or Debbie Harry, the stylists would try to dress them, to change them. Their style would be lost.” Maya, who was wearing jeans made out of denim that had been quilted into a tribal pattern and a loose crocheted top in red, wanted the Hermione de Paula girls to incorporate her ideas with their existing designs that she had seen on their Web site. “They have a jumpsuit that I like,” Maya said. “But instead of using their fabric, I want them to use a fabric that’s made from a document I found.” She took out her laptop and clicked on an official-looking typed letter that had been censored. Black bars erased certain words. “I’d like to turn this page into fabric,” she said. “I know someone who can do that. And then I want to take that fabric and make it into a jumpsuit. I’d like to turn censorship into fashion.”

It doesn’t stop there: Maya would like to build a stage show around the idea of censorship. When a patron enters the club — “We could only do this in small places,” she acknowledged — every move would be limited. If you went to certain areas, alarms would go off and you might be asked to leave. “I want to be like the government,” Maya said. “It could be interesting.”

The censorship tour is doubtful — Maya is currently booked into large outdoor arenas. She finds performing stressful. In June 2008, she announced at the Bonnaroo festival that her performance there would be her “last gig.” But the record business in 2010 demands touring to ensure record sales, as well as secondary revenue, mainly from T-shirt sales. “Maya has to perform live,” Iovine told me. “That’s the key to success today.” Her tour also gives her an opportunity to spread her anti­establishment/​conspiracy-theory message. “I feel like art has a responsibility to make things visually interesting and stimulating,” Maya said now, as we waited, as always, stuck in traffic. “But, at the same time, I like questions. I can’t get a visa right now because of things I’ve said. And that’s wrong. If certain words are banned, then that has to be written up on every box of crayons or paints or on every pen. There needs to be a warning on everything I use to write with that says, ‘Do not write these words, or we will put you in jail.’ ” Maya paused. “And if that’s what America is, then the American people should know that.”

She paused again. “America also has no sense of humor,” she continued. “There’s this show in England about kids who want to be terrorists. It’s brilliant! The kids are buying Ajax to make bombs and trying to think of new ways to do suicide bombings. It’s really, really cool.” She paused again. “Because I think that’s funny, I’ll probably be called a terrorist.” She sighed.
After nearly an hour of driving, we arrived at the designers’ studio. The two women, who were dressed alike in black, loose-fitting tops and platform boots, greeted Maya like a long-lost sister. Their studio was cramped, and two small dogs were happily jumping about near a rack of clothes. Maya’s eye immediately went to the jumpsuit. It was very fitted, with a high Peter Pan collar and cutouts that would reveal flesh on either side of the waist. The girls showed Maya one of their dresses, a slinky column in shades of gray. “No dresses,” she said flatly. “I want to invent an idea for this album, and that idea is based on a uniform. A jumpsuit is like a uniform.”

Maya seemed to be going for a combination of sexy and militaristic. She showed the girls her fabric ideas on her computer, and they were amenable. “Nike is the uniform for kids all over the world,” Maya said for no apparent reason. “And African design has been killed by Nike. Africans no longer want to wear their own designs.” The designers said they thought that was terrible. “The best sportswear is on Blackwater operatives,” Maya continued, referring to the agents who were clandestine guns for hire in Iraq. The designers nodded, but they clearly had no idea what she was talking about. “I want to have a uniform like theirs.”

The oddity of using a garment linked to mercenaries to convey a very different message seemed to elude Maya. As we got ready to leave, she became surprisingly strict with the designers. You are part of my team, she seemed to be saying. And, as part of the team, you must live up to my vision. “I want everything on this album to be a collaboration,” Maya said. The women looked both proud and nervous. They were now recruited.

ROMAIN GAVRAS, THE director of the video for “Born Free,” arrived in London from Paris in April with the master version of the nine-minute minifilm. He was late, because of the ash cloud from Iceland that had engulfed Europe and closed down airports. Gavras had taken the train. All week, Maya was unusually secretive about the “Born Free” video — she would mime zipping her lips whenever anyone asked her about it. Although she showed the video to Richard Russell at XL (“People need to decide if they think it’s valid,” he told me when I asked him about it), she hadn’t sent it to Interscope, even though she planned to release the video in America in four days. “The Interscope lawyers will want to send the video to a censorship board,” she said now. Maya was sitting with Gavras, a tall, bearded man dressed completely in dark blue, from his knit ski hat to his jeans, in XL’s conference room. “I didn’t really approve the video,” she said jokingly. “He hijacked my song.”

Maya met Gavras, who is the son of the politically charged filmmaker Costa-Gavras (his 1969 film “Z,” which won the Academy Award for best foreign film, was a kind of antifascist thriller designed to expose corrupt tactics within the Greek government of the early ’60’s), when she played Paris a few years ago. “He hit on my friend,” Maya recalled. Gavras is willfully notorious: in 2008, his video for the song “Stress,” by the band Justice, depicted a Parisian street gang who steal, destroy tourists’ cameras and beat up innocent bystanders. “For a few months, I was one of the most hated men in France,” Gavras said at the time. “It was fun. It was an amazing free promo,” he continued, adding that in France, “you can only get that much press if you have sex with children.”

Gavras had asked Maya if he could shoot the video for “Paper Planes” on the Mexican border. “I didn’t understand the lyrics,” he said. “I thought it was about illegal immigration.” Maya was game, but Interscope vetoed his idea. “Interscope won,” Maya said. “I don’t want them to win this time.” She paused. “So, do you want to see 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 naïve.

“The video was more than fine with me,” Jimmy Iovine told me later that night. Despite Maya’s efforts, he had seen it. “I didn’t even have a blink.” A canny showman, Iovine knew that the video would get attention, that Maya would get her visa (which she did) and that all the noise was good for business. He has a long history of driving record sales with violent imagery: in the 1990s, Interscope was home to Death Row Records, where Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur made millions rapping about all things gangsta. Iovine also appreciates the outrageous: Interscope’s biggest artist is Lady Gaga, who has melded big-time theatricality with disco-based pop, a kind of love child of Elton John and Madonna.

“With our video, we were really copying ‘Telephone,’ ” Maya says now, referring to Gaga’s recent video with Beyoncé. “Both our videos are road movies. We kill people, and they kill people. They start out in a prison, and we start out in a squat, hunting people down.” Maya zipped her lips again. “I can’t talk about Gaga anymore,” she said. “All I’ll say is, it’s upsetting when babies say ga-ga now. It used to be innocent. Now, they’re calling her name.”

Maya feels that Gaga is not original, that she mostly borrows from the Abba playbook, and she gets annoyed when Gaga is compared to Madonna. “You can’t really say that Gaga is culturally a change,” Maya said. “Madonna was truly unique.” Gavras nodded. “And Madonna was pretty,” he said. “Pop stars should be pretty.” Maya flipped open her computer. “Do you want to see this amazing parody of ‘Telephone’?” she asked. “It’s brilliant!” Gavras stood behind Maya and watched. “This parody has three million hits,” Maya said. “That’s way more than I’ve ever had.”

Downstairs at XL in a small recording studio, the producers Magnus and Edwards were working on Maya’s potential hit song, and the XL publicists wanted her to concentrate on her European press. She had finally decided on a title for the record, which was meant to be an artistic rendering of her name. “I need to figure out what to wear for a photo shoot for tomorrow,” Maya said. “I think we should go shopping.”

Gavras and Maya left XL and headed for Portobello Road, a few blocks away. As Maya pointed out the sights (“Stella McCartney owns that building”), she sorted through the racks of clothing that dozens of dealers had set up on the street. She didn’t want to go back to the studio. “I’m in the visual part of my brain now,” Maya said, as she held up an outsize yellow sweater. “The musical part of my brain is shut down.”

While Gavras talked on the phone, Maya walked ahead. She passed a small shop that sold Indian clothing and pottery, most of it cheaply made. There were sparkly shawls and gauze tunics crowding the window. “I used to buy a lot here when I lived in London,” Maya said. She spotted a tiger costume, complete with whiskered hood, hanging next to an orange sari. “Look at that tiger!” Maya said. “I could wear that at the photo shoot tomorrow!” She paused and considered the implications of dressing up as a tiger. “It’s probably too much,” she said finally. “It might seem like I was making a joke.”

Lynn Hirschberg is a longtime contributor to The New York Times Magazine. Her most recent article was about Megan Fox.


Here is the Editor's correction posted a few days after the article-

Editors' Note: June 3, 2010

The cover article in The Times Magazine on Sunday profiled the singer and political activist M.I.A. While discussing her efforts to draw attention to the civil war in her home country, Sri Lanka, she was quoted as saying: “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono. He’s not from Africa — I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here’s your opportunity to help.’ And no one did.”

While M.I.A. did make those remarks, she did not make the entire statement at the same point in the interview, or in the order in which it was presented.

The part that begins, “The whole point of going to the Grammys,” up to the end of the quotation, actually came first. The part that begins, “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” and ends, “Give war a chance,” came later in the same interview. The article should have made clear that the two quotations came from different parts of the interview.



M.I.A.'s Twitter messages which lead to the NY Times correction-

Entry One-
917.834.3158 CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches ;) 8:26 AM May 27th via web

Entry Two-
NEWS IS AN OPINION! UNEDITED VERSION OF THE INTERVIEW WILL BE ON neetrecordings THIS MEMORIAL WEEKEND!!! >>>> 11:44 AM May 27th via web
TO MY FANS HERES THE TRUFFF, A SONG, AND THE LINKS TO WHAT REALLY MATTERS. http://neetrecordings.com/blog/ XXXO M.I.A 12:51 PM May 30th via web



M.I.A.'s website which includes audio of the Hirschberg interview, as well as the response song "I'm A Singer", and interesting links and collage work-

http://neetrecordings.com/blog/


Lynn Hirschberg's response to M.I.A. not being hacked at-

Hirschberg has responded to the incident in The New York Observer, calling it "infuriating and not surprising." "It's a fairly unethical thing to do," she said, "but I don't think it's surprising. She's a provocateur, and provocateurs want to be provocative." She adds, "The messages have mostly been from people trying to hook up with M.I.A.," she said. "If she wants to get together with John at Bard next week, I have his number."




(M.I.A. In Gold- From the photo shoot discussed in the article)



"M.I.A., the Glenn Beck of the left."- Colin Meloy of The Decemberists
Yes, because we should all be cutesy/spineless indie dolts holding adorable little signs like "Dismantle Congress" when we're not endlessly whining about how boring and/or difficult touring is in self-obsessed, myopic movies about our shitty, utterly forgettable, ineffectual bands, and the useless "art" they create. Oh, and we should all do wretched Sam Cooke covers, too.



Well never mind all that, cuz Pitchfork to the rescue! To sort it all out and put in perspective! It's like they do the thinking for you!

Last week, the New York Times Magazine published a feature by Lynn Hirschberg about M.I.A. (Truffles were involved.) You may have read it or heard about it-- especially after M.I.A.'s irate response, which involved putting Hirschberg's phone number on Twitter. That middle-school comeback is a pretty good indication of what the feature is like. It's like watching Hirschberg walk into a room, lay a briefcase on the table, remove an array of rusty surgical tools, and hack away at a point I'm pretty sure people in the music world realized long ago, have been fine with for years, and did not need quotes from experts on Sri Lankan politics to remind them of: Maya Arulpragasam is not a politically sophisticated thinker. Or if she is, she doesn't always talk like it.

In Arulpragasam's defense, this may or may not be a bad thing. After all, people don't need to be "sophisticated" to be right. People don't need to be nuanced or thoughtful to say something important. (Sometimes sophistication is a way of keeping people powerless-- ignoring anyone who doesn't speak your diplomatic language.) And people definitely don't need to be any of those things to release good music. Hirschberg isn't much interested in the music; in that sense, the piece is like reading breaking news that Public Enemy's politics may have been-- get this-- somewhat messy or incoherent. And politics is important, but so are love, sex, religion, and how we treat one another as human beings-- all topics we're often fine with pop musicians acting out in ways that are contradictory, unsubtle, or problematic. We don't need musicians to be "right" so much as we need them to be resonant-- and at least not objectionably wrong.

And in art, there are different versions of that. Being bad with politics-- holding an indefensible position-- can make you "wrong." Being bad with symbols and gestures-- in other words, being bad at pop-- might just make you uncool or embarrassing. It's funny: Half the praise M.I.A. gets comes from the space between those two things, which makes it kind of perfect that negative reactions to this article do, too. It's this weird blur between whether she's politically wrong or just embarrassing and sophomoric. Moral wrongness versus pop wrongness. So is she politically irresponsible, or fraudulent, or annoying, or none of the above?

Well, she's definitely not always responsible. She's sloppy about nationalism and violence, even when she's talking about places-- like the whole continent of Africa-- where revolutionary politics have not always been a great experience for everyone. But we'll come back to that.

Let's start with her art. A whole lot of its appeal comes from something even she'd admit would be going on with or without her: The way elements of hip-hop and dance music have started collecting the input and innovation of a more global class-- the way attitudes built to cope with life in places like New York and Kingston have turned out to resonate just as much if you're coping with Dar es Salaam or Rio, or living illegally on the outer edges of London or Paris. Or living someplace where you're constantly exposed to political violence and repression. The one thing Arulpragasam has consistently acted as is a conduit. She's an importer, a curator, and a packager-- she taps into this idea and gives you a name and a face to buy it from. She does it visually and lyrically, and her longtime collaborator Diplo-- a guy who made a name for himself as a "conduit" DJ of things like Brazilian baile funk and Baltimore club-- does it musically. And the package they came up with is every bit as vexed, messy, problematic, and potentially effective as a lot of different pop packages.

This is actually one of the first things Hirschberg gets dead wrong about her subject; she seems to see something interesting or contradictory in talking about global poverty while sitting in safety eating nice food. Which is weird, because you'd think anyone even passingly familiar with either hip-hop or immigrants would see why this isn't unusual. (And why the "radical chic" dynamic the headline points to is long past its prime.)

What's unusual is the way M.I.A. acts as a conduit-- how she presents herself as a person within this package. So far as I can tell, it involves two habits, one of which does not bug me, and one of which really, really does.

The first is that she likes to remind us, at every opportunity, that the world is full of political violence, poverty, death, and injustice. That people are rounded up and shot, that people are born and live and die in refugee camps, that whole populations are terrorized. That in a lot of the world, this kind of stuff is, perversely, "normal." These aren't outrageous comments, and in a lot of ways they're not even political; they're pretty much just statements of verifiable fact. They're even important enough that it's hard to accuse her of being ham-fisted or simplistic or a broken record about them. They can only become outrageous if she follows them with concrete statements about what should be done, something I have very rarely seen her do. Unless, of course, the statement is "listen to me."

In that sense, her lack of sophistication sort of balances itself out: Her political thinking might not always be subtle, but she tends not to say much that requires a ton of subtlety anyway. (Even provocations like "give war a chance" are so blurry-- and so directed at a safe audience-- that they work more like gestures.) It's pretty hard to be wrong about saying "people live in refugee camps"-- and, to her credit, she's involved herself in direct action beyond just saying so. Again, the risk she runs isn't usually wrongness; it's the risk of looking stupid, or disappointing folks who think you should have something nuanced or substantive to say beyond that. And hey, maybe that's other people's problem.

But adopting a pose like Arulpragasam's has meaning way beyond what you do or don't advocate. And that's the second thing, the big problem: M.I.A. is incredibly non-hesitant to wrap herself in the idea of political violence. Not just poverty or struggle but actual political violence. She is shockingly non-hesitant to put on that cloak. She implicates herself in it even in places where she's clearly not: Listening to her talk, you'd think she was about to get sent to Guantanamo, not profiled by major newspapers. Terrorism, nationalism, revolution, insurgency, armed struggle; it's like she goes out of her way to keep these things floating in the tag cloud around her name. In my personal observation, not that many people who transfer between the third world and the first-- even at the age Arulpragasam did-- are anywhere near so blithe and carefree about packaging themselves as authentic representatives of this stuff. (And there are others in the pop world whose backgrounds, like Arulpragasam's, might give them the leeway to try.) For a lot of people in Arulpragasam's position, the idea of political violence is a little too serious to fuck around with, and definitely too real to wrap oneself in-- the whole point is that nobody should have to be wrapped in it in the first place.

For me, that's notable and unusual. It may involve an unattractive level of arrogance or lack of seriousness, which is what Hirschberg's profile is driving at. I don't know Arulpragasam and I can't say; I'm not sure I even care how it works for her-- that's her business. But I think it's possible that, art-wise, this is the single most Western thing about her-- the way she's figured out how to draw style and success and authenticity out of the idea of political violence. It's a quality that may have more in common with an old Urban Outfitters t-shirt rack than anything in the third world.

What's bizarre to me is that Hirschberg, and plenty of the people reacting to Hirschberg's piece, are so willing to take this up as a point of contention-- to needle Arulpragasam or argue about whether she can really, credibly wear that particular cloak. As if the cloak is, without question, an honor to wear. But maybe it shouldn't be a cloak or a prize to begin with. For me, the purposeful way M.I.A. wears it-- and the benefit she seems to get out of it-- can get almost laughable. And "laughable" is not the safest thing for a musician like her to be.

It also makes for the most Western quote in Hirschberg's piece, where Arulpragasam fires off a line about Bono's poverty efforts in Africa-- about how Bono's not African, but she herself is from Sri Lanka. This is an incredibly first-world thing to say: It's not about policy or development issues or whether Bono's accomplishing anything worthwhile. It's entirely about this Western game of authenticity and who gets to wear the cloak, who gets the credit for something. Which is funny, because lots of people who are forced to wear this particular cloak-- forced into a relationship with poverty and political violence-- would give just about anything not to. Arulpragasam puts herself in a weird spot. She'll talk about how seldom we hear the voices of the third world, but on some level she suggests that listening to her might work, too.

There are ways these things have energized M.I.A.'s music in good and valuable ways. There are others that are problematic and/or annoying. For one, there are the age-old issues involved in trying to represent for people beside yourself. And when it comes to her art, there's a whole lot of risk involved in aestheticizing political violence, turning it into signifier and style. This, oddly enough, is why I loved a particular lyric to Vampire Weekend's "Holiday", from their latest album (appropriately enough titled Contra):

She'd never seen the word BOMBS blown up to 96-point Futura
She'd never seen an AK in a yellowy Day-Glo display
A t-shirt so lovely it turned all the history books gray

It's hard for me to hear those lines without immediately thinking of M.I.A. And the last line, the way I understand it, is exactly the right kicker: Turning some of these things into an aesthetic-- or a cloak to be worn-- can step on the reality of them in a way that's worrying, especially if it's not coherent. The image of an assault rifle, at least, has some kind of resonance as an image of resistance. But M.I.A. is happy to set one dancing right next to the image of a tank. And a tank, unless it's fighting another tank, is pretty much never on any "good" side of political violence.

Does that bother you? Granted: I'm pretty sure there are parts of the world where you can't spend all day being dead-serious about tanks and Kalashnikovs because they're too often parts of the scenery-- if you couldn't toy with their images you'd have to cease being human. (There are also places where it's hard to find anyone fighting for you who isn't, in someone's eyes, the problem.) This is pretty obviously one part of where Arulpragasam's coming from-- it's certainly an element of this global beat-music realm, where hip-hop might give someone a template to talk about what it's like to live in, say, Gaza, instead of a Brooklyn project. Besides, our first-world popular culture has given us a lot of weird things as signifiers, including death, sex, murder, alcoholism, suicide, fucked-up gender politics, drug-running, mental illness, and gang violence. Sometimes it's reprehensible. Sometimes these things are just part of people's lives whether they like it or not, and they're acted out in ways that actually mean something valuable.

It's funny, though: I can think of at least one moment where M.I.A.'s pop package has worked better when it's coming from someone else. It's on her last album, Kala, when a verse in the song "Hussel" is handed over to the Nigerian/British rapper Afrikan Boy. His image of a third-world hustle is a hundred times more resonant than most of M.I.A.'s-- it involves standing out on the highway selling sugar. On one of his own tracks, "Lidl", it's about sneaking into the UK and getting caught shoplifting from supermarket chains.

Compare this with M.I.A., who so often wraps herself in the idea of political violence and armed resistance-- things that make a much more exciting package for Western audiences, but can also be a lot more cartoonish and self-aggrandizing. Part of it is surely just the background difference between Nigeria and Tamil Sri Lanka, but M.I.A.'s the one trying to bridge these things. If she ever talked about a plastic bag full of gasoline, you get the feeling she'd add a match and make it a bomb. If it were Afrikan Boy, it'd just be something kids sell to people with cars to make a little money. Afrikan Boy is being funny in "Lidl", and yet I still take what he's saying way more seriously than I take the popstar who introduced me to him.

Funny, too, that she has him guest on a song called "Hussel", an idea he turns inside-out in a freestyle elsewhere: "You're a hustler? What is that to an African? To a Nigerian? It is nada." Maybe what you want to call "hustling" is really just being alive. This is the kind of space M.I.A. packages and acts out for us, but I think she's a lot better at packaging it than examining it. A lot of people seemed to read that Times piece and feel like M.I.A. was being exposed as somehow fraudulent. If she is, it's not because she's so politically "wrong"-- it's that her cloak has slipped for a second, and people have noticed just how much it's something she enjoys putting on.

If she starts spending more time adjusting that cloak than releasing good tracks, she might have a problem. But for us as listeners, there's another easy trick, which is to approach any good music she makes from the standpoint that the cloak is, well, kinda bullshit-- that she's a normal person, unsophisticated and flawed like anyone, who does not actually have any grand authority or credibility that other people lack. Isn't it possible to swallow the music and spit out the cloak? To not act like she's speaking for anything beyond her own messy self?

That's one way to navigate the distance between pop and a UN subcommittee. There are other "political" artists out there who could probably sit down and explain their viewpoints, patiently and thoroughly and sensibly, for days. But for a lot of them, no amount of focused thinking has resulted in a package that's quite as resonant, engaging, or accessible as what M.I.A.'s turned out in the past. Which leaves us all deciding how much we care about resonance versus how much we care about right-- not because they're opposites, but because thus far Arulpragasam's been a hell of a lot better with one than the other.



Some crap from The Daily Swarm:

The cover article in The Times Magazine on Sunday profiled the singer and political activist M.I.A. While discussing her efforts to draw attention to the civil war in her home country, Sri Lanka, she was quoted as saying: “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono. He’s not from Africa — I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here’s your opportunity to help.’ And no one did.”

While M.I.A. did make those remarks, she did not make the entire statement at the same point in the interview, or in the order in which it was presented.

The part that begins, “The whole point of going to the Grammys,” up to the end of the quotation, actually came first. The part that begins, “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” and ends, “Give war a chance,” came later in the same interview. The article should have made clear that the two quotations came from different parts of the interview.
Huffington Post:

Now M.I.A. has found another way to channel her anger at Lynn Hirschberg and the NYT—through a track called ‘I’m a Singer (Haters)’ posted on her website. Here are some lyrics, listen below:

And the story’s always f——ed by the time it hits
Why the hell would journalists be thick as s—-
Cuz lies equals power equals politics.
I’m a singer
Never said anything else
I didn’t lie to you
Thinkin’ of somebody else
You can talk sh—to me I’m used to it
You can make me hard with the wounds that I have to lick
You can pick on me and I can see it at a click.
M.I.A. has also posted excerpts from the interview on her website. Turns out Hirschberg is the one who ordered the truffle fries.

”‘I kind of want to be an outsider,’ she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry,” Hirschberg wrote of M.I.A. in the NYT piece. ”‘I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.’”



Last year Tobi Vail wrote two entries about M.I.A. on her blog. Tobi's blog is here-

us underground types don't often find much to get excited about re: music awards shows, but this year on one of the biggest music business awards shows, MIA performed live, 9 months pregnant. it was on youtube but it's gone now. if you didn't see it, you should try to get a copy of it, because it was pretty amazing. of course traditionally working women have often worked up until their due date and many still do, out of necessity. for MIA to go on TV this pregnant (in a revealing outfit no less!) not only challenges patriarchal roles about how women are supposed to act when they become mothers, it also can be read as an act of solidarity with working women (and mothers) everywhere. she totally rules.

and then...

also check out today's wall street journal for an amazing interview with her:

WSJ: You're nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy as the conflict in Sri Lanka is heating up, with accusations of very ugly behavior by both sides. Does that make for a bittersweet moment?

M.I.A.: I'm also nominated for a Brit Award in England. But for me nominations are not like a musical thing. It's more like me having a platform. The point of success is being able to tell a wider audience about the situation in Sri Lanka.

Your lyrics address issues like human trafficking and guerrilla warfare in a telling-it-like-it-is, almost amoral way that's similar to the way gangsta rap treated drug dealing and urban violence in the 1990s. Do you see a connection?

I've seen, with my own eyes, a lot of s- go down. I've seen people get massacred in front of me. My school was burned to the ground when I was 6 years old. When you come from that kind of background, you do become matter of fact, and tell it like it is.

What do you say to critics, like the Sri Lankan rapper Delon, who accuse you of glorifying terrorism?

If you think lyrics about guns are bad, I shouldn't have been shot at when I was 7 years old.



But what about the people? Well, hmmm. I'm putting all 149 comments from the NY Times Magazine article here, so you can see for yourselves.

Is the Sri Lankan musician’s political rap more than just radical chic?

Comments are no longer being accepted.

148 Readers' Comments
All Comments

1.
TK
NJ
May 25th, 2010
10:23 pm
Great going Maya. Keep it up. #1, Luv your music + for giving voice to the voiceless Tamils.
Recommend Recommended by 33 Readers
2.
Jean
New York
May 25th, 2010
10:23 pm
9 pages... are you kidding?
Recommend Recommended by 111 Readers
3.
Santos Dos
New York
May 26th, 2010
9:27 am
I don't know why I gradually lost interest in this artist as I read this piece. She just seems "hollow" now as the article calls one of her videos. She is definitely great at stirring controversy and creating a persona, but I just don't believe in her politics anymore.
Recommend Recommended by 94 Readers
4.
Lance Legel
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
May 26th, 2010
9:27 am
Maya cannot understand the many forces that drive her, but that doesn't really matter.

She can manipulate and vent the pressure points she feels into striking reciprocals for her allegedly culpable audience.

This artist may often be disagreeable, and sometimes ill-advised, but her extreme voice should be carefully considered with the extreme policies that created her.
Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers
5.
Anne S.
Brooklyn, NY
May 26th, 2010
12:17 pm
I was bored by the fifth paragraph. Why aren't you sending more reporters to cover the BP oil spill rather than writing thousands of words about this silly woman? I know: I don't have to read it if I don't want to - but what a waste of this once-great newspapers' resources.
Recommend Recommended by 90 Readers
6.
AS
Chicago
May 26th, 2010
12:17 pm
<< I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ >>

Really? So let's get this straight: preach violence, make sure your style overshadows your reactionary substance, valorize murder, and justify it with confused language about 'authenticity' and keeping it real.

Sounds like Fascism 101.
Recommend Recommended by 111 Readers
7.
David Choi
New York
May 26th, 2010
12:18 pm
Maya should stop insulting Mother Monster, as Gaga is subtly more subversive and artistically more talented than M.I.A. can ever be.
Recommend Recommended by 40 Readers
8.
heath
nyc
May 26th, 2010
12:18 pm
I haven't read the article as yet, or listened much to M.I.A.'s earlier work, but XXXO is a brilliant work of art. Congrats to her musical and social intelligence for being able to produce this song.
Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers
9.
Mr. W. Hearst
Boston, MA
May 26th, 2010
12:18 pm
Talk about the struggle between style and substance--this is a tab-phobic transcription in search of a theme and a lede.

Incidentally, if you think it's nearly impossible for success and radical integrity to coincide in pop music, try looking at the Sex Pistols, Public Enemy, Ice-T, just to name a few. More like nearly never attempted in the first place.
Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers
10.
Mike
NJ
May 26th, 2010
12:19 pm
It's now official ladies and gentlemen; the term "artist" has finally been purged of what little real meaning it had left. Nine pages on someone not deserving of even nine words...
Recommend Recommended by 68 Readers
11.
Chris
Houston, TX.
May 26th, 2010
12:52 pm
I'm a fan of her music. I've always been even when she first came out and had few followers. However, she's seems cavalier on very sensitive topics. I understand she is trying to expose the injustice's of the system but in so doing she is putting herself and her family in dangers she should have left off before a family is at risk.
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
12.
adam
nyc
May 26th, 2010
12:52 pm
M.I.A. has used her 'my father was a Tamil Tiger' for all its worth and then some. She clearly wants to be controversial but its clear that she has no real sense of the world; she barely seems to understand herself. I saw her on Tavis Smiley and she could not have been less articulate about the Sri Lanka/Tamil conflict: a struggle which she has based her whole political artist persona around. As an artist trying to mix music with politics, she makes Madonna seem like Thomas Friedman.
Recommend Recommended by 146 Readers
13.
matt
michigan
May 26th, 2010
12:53 pm
I vote "just radical chic."
Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers
14.
AHK
New York
May 26th, 2010
12:53 pm
May I suggest an appropriate abstract for this article?

"We hung out with M.I.A. and ended up not thinking she was all that. But here's a set of pretty photos! By the way, GaGa should probably avoid her at the next awards show. The end."
Recommend Recommended by 94 Readers
15.
Tom Anderson
New York, NY
May 26th, 2010
12:53 pm
I couldn't read past the first paragraph. To wit:

"While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel. In contrast to, say, Bono or John Lennon, with their peacenik messages..."

Public Enemy? Militant, rebellious American rappers. Bono? Irish. John Lennon? British.

I'm done reading.
Recommend Recommended by 39 Readers
16.
gmg22
DC
May 26th, 2010
12:54 pm
After reading this I'd say she's pretty clearly shown herself to be a hustler and a phony, but maybe that's all just the point of the show ...
Recommend Recommended by 72 Readers
17.
Patrick Lally
Madison, WI
May 26th, 2010
12:54 pm
The Hip-Hop Hypocrisy of Chick Guevara: or, Boringly Bourgeois in Brentwood with the Bronfmans (Bang-Bang)
Recommend Recommended by 110 Readers
18.
Mike
NYC
May 26th, 2010
12:54 pm
From this 9 page article, she comes off as a walking talking Che t-shirt, a mangled mix of confused politics, pop-hop and a blend of cheap fashion accessories. Her gross ignorance of the Sri Lankan conflict and outright support of a known terrorist organization is unforgivable.

This has become such a boring and repetitive affair. Another rich and extravagant pop star who munches on truffle-filled french fries, while sitting in posh Brentwood mansion, espousing grade school level geo-political ideas while praising war and violence in the name of 'justice'. This is the prototypical Che Guevarra t-shirt syndrome.

But at least her music is somewhat danceable.
Recommend Recommended by 176 Readers
19.
kinopku
nyc
May 26th, 2010
12:56 pm
"While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel."

i don't see what is so un-american about the militant rebel - especially as Public Enemy was cited in that very sentence. non-commercial rappers are still delivering revolutionary messages, often from within the communities they hope to transform, as opposed to m.i.a. who is doing it from beverly hills. m.i.a. is a pop star - no more no less. and a rich one at that. there is nothing wrong with that, but she is no terrorist. the next 9 page feature should be on One Be Lo or Dead Prez. m.i.a. is about fashion, from what it seems in this article. good first album though.
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
20.
Sam
Boston
May 26th, 2010
12:56 pm
od, MIA can spare me all this baloney about her being militant...her dad was a part of the struggle in Sri Lanka, not her...in fact...her 'militant' self fled the country to explore music over here...way to be a part of the struggle maya...congrats on the baby tho
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
21.
aniym
nyc
May 26th, 2010
12:57 pm
what's shameful about her ridiculous "political" act is the fact that she exploits a national tragedy (Sri Lankan civil strife) to boost her own credibility as 'not another pop star'. Her woefully inadequate knowledge of the conflict was excruciatingly displayed on her appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. It's fine for people to like her music, but the political tone of her work means that her fans, unwittingly or not, encourage her dishonesty and exploitative business and artistic practices.
Recommend Recommended by 82 Readers
22.
Rob Cook
New York
May 26th, 2010
12:58 pm
Eh, her style isn't anything that 20 something trust fund kids in Brooklyn haven't been doing for year. She's just the most noticeable figure in a hipster trend wave. I'm glad that she's concerned with politics, especially where she's from, but it doesn't really sound like she's done her homework. Maybe I'd be more interested if her music wasn't so bland.
Recommend Recommended by 21 Readers
23.
response to awakened
London
May 26th, 2010
2:06 pm
I'm really happy the NYT showcased MIA in this magazine feature and am disgusted by many of these comments. You may or may not agree with her politics but have no doubt this woman is about substance and art at once. Most pop "artists" don't create their own music, they just throw sex and brainless lyrics at us to make money, MIA is physically capable (meaning she's gorgeous) of doing the same, but she has heart and vision.

Is anyone here really up to date on the Sri Lankan conflict or are we just taking the author's (pop-culture/fluff writer; NOT international politics expert) word for everything? MIA doesn't claim to be an international politics expert either, she makes music and she does it well. She happens to sprinkle in political undertones based on her experience, just like we do when it comes to sensitive topics that hit closer to home like 9/11 or Israel. Sure we can tell the other side of the story, but do we?

If anything her message has been highly humanitarian, and if she uses her position to bring attention to mass killings we should only hope we can have more people like her to highlight what's happening in Myanmar, Sudan, and the Congo. If Nick Kristof can put out a record and look like an exotic princess, even better!
Recommend Recommended by 65 Readers
24.
vg
toronto
May 26th, 2010
2:07 pm
Something different from the homogeneity that tends to dominate the billboard charts.
Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers
25.
Jason
Los Angeles
May 26th, 2010
2:07 pm
How strange that some of the complaints here focus on the length of the article. What's that about? The NYT frequently writes lengthy pieces about all sorts of unique and interesting things. Some of those things are of no interest to me. But to complain that a newspaper (this newspaper, no less) needs to write less about one thing and more about another seems kind of perverse. Especially when those complaints come from ... readers. How strange.

26.
carrie
st paul MN
May 26th, 2010
2:08 pm
you know there may be a itle credibility factor erupting when the comments are more entertaining to read than the article.
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
27.
C.B.McCarthy
Washington, D.C.
May 26th, 2010
2:08 pm
I've really lost respect for this "artist." She seems to create just for the sake of doing so. Complaining about a civil war she doesn't understand? Deceiving people about her family's history? Munching on truffled french fries and wearing pounds of gold jewelry and advocating violence over peace while lambasting the United States for having no sense of humor? This woman is a hypocrite of the first order, and elementally naive.
Recommend Recommended by 51 Readers
28.
carrie
st paul MN
May 26th, 2010
2:09 pm
You know there may be a little credibiity factor erupting when the comments are more fun to read than the article.
Recommend Recommended by 17 Readers
29.
Phews
London
May 26th, 2010
2:09 pm
Maya's 15 minutes of fame cannot end soon enough.
Recommend Recommended by 23 Readers
30.
Z.S
University, Boston
May 26th, 2010
2:09 pm
Yes, M.I.A is a good looking well dressed pop star with ace producers and a Beverly Hills mansion. Yes, she also raps about political oppression and armed struggle in a way that is incongruent with her current lifestyle.
But what this article fails to note is that she is, like any pop artist, a Big Music product sold to a specific genre niche in which there are many many other worthy, talented, and often more subtle competitors. Global South Hip Hop (for lack of a better term) is a vibrant and diverse movement that, while born from the styles of the American ghetto, gives voice to a world of other impoverished and oppressed peoples who rap about issues important to them in English and in local languages, to slick club beats or mixes lush with traditional instruments.
It's a shame, though not a surprise, that Big Music should uplift one of the more shallow artists from this movement, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't promote awareness about the global force from which she sprang that is Hip Hop today.
Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers
31.
ampanai
Toronto, ON.
May 26th, 2010
2:11 pm
Good music by M.I.A and simply superb for standing up for human rights as well. As for me, I will start checking the labels and start boycotting "Made in Sri Lanka".
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
32.
Awakened
Oklahoma City
May 26th, 2010
2:11 pm
This is entirely too much to read, and too much emphasis on a distasteful rapper, who is bent on pushing buttons, parading as possibly intelligent, and manipulating the youth into buying her junk.

She is doing nothing to better the world, and nine pages has to be more than anyone wants to know about her.
Recommend Recommended by 25 Readers
33.
jarugn
Madison, WI
May 26th, 2010
2:11 pm
While most artists carving the path in uncontroversial causes, MIA has has openly embraced Tamil cause, rightly so. That is a gutsy move considering the vicious oppression of by Sri Lankan government. If you understand where she came from and where she is going, you can not but admire MIA. She is just another Tamil genius among many.
Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers
34.
Claudius
Denver
May 26th, 2010
5:09 pm
What a great article, I thought it wasn't a word too long. Summed up her contradictions gracefully. More cultural pieces like this one please!
Recommend Recommended by 29 Readers
35.
vg
toronto
May 26th, 2010
5:10 pm
It is strange to me that people discredit mia for not knowing enough about the conflict in sri lanka and deem her as unknowledgeable and unsophisticated for promoting her viewpoint that sides with the tamil minority. Is this not the nature of politics? everyone, including the politician interviewed in the article has a motivation for believing and promoting a certain viewpoint.
Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers
36.
response to awakened
London
May 26th, 2010
5:10 pm
The same can be said about pop's reigning duo Jay-Z and Beyonce. Both of them have countless grammies but what good are they? I'd rather hear MIA rap about real world issues than hear self-worship and putting a ring on it.
Recommend Recommended by 17 Readers
37.
Eric
Houston, TX
May 26th, 2010
7:12 pm
Engaged to the Seagrams heir and son of wealthy record company executive while selling albums lamenting those who live in "concentration camps". I think her fans are being taken for suckers.
Recommend Recommended by 54 Readers
38.
Boston Tamilan
Boston
May 26th, 2010
7:12 pm
Maya is doing what every Tamil must do; STOP the GENOCIDE of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Keep it up Maya and help PROTECT the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers
39.
Gee
MA
May 26th, 2010
7:12 pm
Does she realize that the Tamil Tigers are (or were I should say) a terrorist group? You can call them "Freedom Fighters", but for me whoever kills innocent civilians with a bomb strapped to their chest is a terrorist. It is true that the Sri Lankan government could have handled the situation a lot differently, and for that I am especially critical of. However, I cannot sit here and not think of all the atrocities the Tamil Tigers have done in the past two decades. Also, one of the quotes of Maya says that Sri Lankans think of Tamils as their worst enemy. Yeah sure maybe in some places. But as a Sri Lankan living in Massachusetts, the Sri Lankan community here consists of not only Sinhalese but Tamils as well. I have yet to see any hatred among Sinhalese and Tamils in this community. All I see is people putting away the differences that people in the mother country have fabricated. All Maya is doing is trying to make sure that the division between Sinhalese and Tamils exists. To me this is similar to the segregation that occurred here in America decades ago. In the end, I believe (and I know many believe as well) that the Sinhalese and Tamil community can definitely coexist peacefully and that it is these people that have an audience, have a microphone, that are ruining it for everybody.
Recommend Recommended by 49 Readers
40.
fatbunnies
wherever
May 26th, 2010
7:13 pm
is this a joke? 9 pages! if you want to listen to political rap check out Immortal Technique. really 9 pages on MIA and 0 on Immortal?! i know the nytimes is a farce and i guess thats the only explanation for this *explicit*
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
41.
Liza
DC
May 26th, 2010
7:13 pm
She is awesome! A role-model who is shows young girls how to be themselves.

What an improvement over Brittany Spears and Paris Hiltons of the world!
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
42.
Sandasavi
Washington State
May 26th, 2010
7:34 pm
Many people including M.I.A do not understand the conflict in Sri Lanka. I agree with Kadirgamar when he said, "And Maya took a very simplistic explanation of the problems between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese government and the Tamils." That is true, both sides did horrible things to the people in Sri Lanka. But, the issues are complicated and will need a long time to be resolved (hopefully with out violence to get in the way). But, what I want for Sri Lanka is to prosper. Having been to SL many times (to visit my husband's family) in the last 6 years I see such potential for this country. I also want my husbands family to be safe from violence and to have a chance to prosper as well. I love visiting SL and hope that the war will really truely end so that SL can return to what many in the past called Eden, a beautiful peaceful Island. M.I.A does not want that by what her music says. Peace is better than War, always. I choose not to listen to her music.
Recommend Recommended by 29 Readers
43.
ThinkFirst
USA
May 26th, 2010
7:36 pm
"Give war a chance", great idea. So why is she so safely living in comfort and luxury in rather peaceful surroundings? Perhaps she needs to hear more gunfire and the sound of the wounded and dying... Spoiled child who escaped from poverty and war to forget it all and encourage more of the same from a distance. Grow up girl.
Recommend Recommended by 43 Readers
44.
Crcrcr
USA
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
And does she talk of the brutality of the Tigers? She sounds like the English/Sri Lankan version of the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) - EBCD?. I have never listened to her music but half the time it is people in the west like Maya that foment and/or raise funds for their causes as misinformed as they may be. Some examples are: the proponents of Khalistan (funded largely by Sikhs in the U.S. and Canada) and the RSS (the right wing Hindu outfit) that gives "Hindu culture" classes to children born here and try to raise a new generation to hate.

With this particular conflict there was more than enough blame to go around on all sides. If Maya is so concerned about it why is she living in Brtentwood with a Bronfman heir? Should she not be back in Sri Lanka doing what it takes to help the poor Tamils in the camps?


Recommend Recommended by 19 Readers
45.
yogiromero
Honolulu
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
No, just radical chic. Her music is pretty meh, especially when she steals riffs from The Clash. I would recommend The Clash instead.
Recommend Recommended by 17 Readers
46.
Shane S
Atlanta
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
"As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”

As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills."

This is all I need to know about Ms. Arulpragasam. Fortunately the only copies of her music in my possesion (which I'll be soon ridding myself of) were given to me by someone else, so I can at least sleep tonight knowing I haven't contributed financially to this disgusting, hypocritical charlatan.
Recommend Recommended by 46 Readers
47.
TJ
New York, NY
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
The piece was too long by 400-500%, but what's really irritatingly subpar about it is the author's failure to determine what parts of Maya's backstory are true and what parts are false. There's shtick, and then there's just plain lying.


Recommend Recommended by 28 Readers
48.
Anonymous
New York
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
Nothing is more boring and conventional than being stupid.
Recommend Recommended by 24 Readers
49.
js
New York
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
The writer of this article completely missed the substance of MIA (musically and politically) and in my view greatly misrepresents her. The writer also shows a lack of knowledge about the Sri Lankan conflict.

First, MIA is the ONLY person who is able to speak out in the mainstream media on the Sri Lankan conflict. If you actually watch the interviews with her (such as on the Tavis Smiley show) she is well-informed, educated, is not obsessed with "terrorism", and does not openly advocate violence. As someone who spent several years living in Sri Lanka, I can tell you that the Sri Lankan government's treatment of Tamil civilians looks quite a lot like "genocide"; MIA's public statements have condemned these actions, but she has gone out of her way to say that she does not condone the violence of the LTTE. Furthermore, the article gives way too much credibility to the Sri Lankan government official cited in the article, who (he has done this in other publications as well) uses his official role to discredit her political intervention. Sri Lanka is ranked the fourth worst place in the world for journalists - after Afghanistan, Iraq, and (I think) Iran. The government undoubtedly is responsible for some of that, and they cannot so easily be labeled the "good guys" in the conflict. This article makes it appear that the government has only retaliated against LTTE actions, which neglects the fact that the LTTE were a symptom, not the cause of the war: they were formed because of racist actions and disenfranchising policies against the Tamil minority.

Undoubtedly, MIA is a walking contradiction. But this writer presented a one-sided view of her, made her appear drained of substance, and made her seem like some uninformed moron who is unaware of the horrors of violence. From what I know about her (and of course I do not know her personally), the truth is the opposite - her music is creative and truly cutting edge (as opposed to, say Lady Gaga, who she should not even be compared to), and since she grew up having to face the realities of violence (albeit from the perspective of the diaspora), she is using her status to speak out against it.

This article truly bastardizes her message by taking the Sri Lankan government's reckoning of the war too seriously, and by debunking MIA's important (and substantive) political message by making her appear uninformed and superficial.
Recommend Recommended by 63 Readers
50.
moot
Vancouver
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
I'm glad I read that, now I won't give her another thought. It must be very, very easy to be M.I.A, playing "controversial" or "terrorist" (gasp!), when you retreat at night to...Brentwood. What a renegade, buying cheap street fashion (when you are engaged to an heir). Next.
Recommend Recommended by 26 Readers

51.
ling84
California
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
I wish MIA had more substance, less style. There's no point to a protest if it's just the World News sections of various newspapers stuck in a blender, which is what MIA's lyrics often sound like.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
52.
D. W.
New York, NY
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
I wrote about M.I.A.'s politics last year in an academic paper published by a graduate student journal. I'm Sinhalese in ethnic origin, and just found her attitudes about what she's doing and the substance of it a morass of contradictions. If anyone is interested in reading more about the origins of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the campaign to redefine it as genocide that took place last year, and M.I.A.'s role in combining politics and pop, I'd suggest it. http://bit.ly/dqes3K. Hope this makes it through, it is in no way spam and builds nicely on this profile piece.
Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers
53.
Marlene
NJ
May 27th, 2010
1:51 pm
I like MIA's music ever since they played the songs during a social event at my son's elementary school couple of years ago.

I haven't read the whole article yet, I'll be doing so and will wait for the magazine this weekend.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers
54.
Geoff
Ann Arbor MI
May 27th, 2010
1:52 pm
Wow. The NYtimes calling someone else "politically naive"? Can you say pot meets kettle? By the way, where are those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that Judith Miller promised us?
Recommend Recommended by 35 Readers
55.
VictimsShare
Boston
May 27th, 2010
1:53 pm
MIA is a product of trauma caused by wars in Sri Lanka, she is from the generation survived when parents ducked, dived & dodged to escape the horrors. On fleeing MIA grew up in a council housing estate surrounded by the local British treated her family as the immigrant scrounging off the state. This would have had a psychological impact during het childhood. In London getting called a "Paki" is comparable to calling someone with N word in the US. Similarities of a troubled kid from a refugee family saying the untold/unrecognized horrors of Sri Lanka coiled up with her own frustrations as a youngster uprooted from their native land just because she comes from the minority. MIA's manager need to give her the advise as If she wants to inspire the youth to be a role model who could stand up and speak out against injustice tone down a bit but carry on to include meaningful facts in her lyrics. She seems to be trying to be in harmony with herself but it might hurt the cause she very much wants to speak about.

Article is long agree but it would seem doubly long for anyone who lead cosy life, ill informed yet judgemental not knowing facts, non participant in politics enough to influence policies. These are the same people who need to have the patience to read and understand "far away" suffering so that they could influence the foreign policy. Right now rest of the world believing multi faced Sri Lanka to be the only victim when the innocent civilians are the victims of Sri Lanka. Long standing conflict since independence from the British has snow balled into what Sri Lanka's innocent civilians face today in the world stage.

NY times didnot publish a substandard story the world has turned substandard unfortunately human psyche is when victims become activists with too much passion they get put under the microscope to be judged not the perpertrator.
Thanks to MIA for speaking out in her own way as an artist once a victim, without LYNN HIRSCHBERG these comments and conversations could not have been aired in public. As always NY times published such an article is a great idea at this juncture.

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
56.
Loubaina
Austin, Texas
May 27th, 2010
1:53 pm
All the comments here about M.I.A. not being important enough for a NYTimes Magazine article don't quite grasp that hers is a quintessential rags-to-riches story of someone who was completely marginalized - her father dubbed a terrorist in a developing country - living as a refugee and growing up to channel her political rage into incredibly successful music records and 'avenging' her father. there IS great significance to the fact that she has used her music as a platform to espouse unpopular and controversial political views (especially when the liberals who ostensibly would be her allies might themselves distance themselves from her opinions). It IS a big deal that someone from South Asia has made it huge in the American pop scene.
Recommend Recommended by 28 Readers
57.
TB
London
May 27th, 2010
1:53 pm
M.I.A is great. I love her music and creativity. The best I like about her is her courage to give voice for the voiceless Tamil people. If the world has listened to her plea, it could have stopped the massacre of more then 40,000 innocent Tamil people by the Srilankan state last May.
Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers
58.
Jason
Astoria, NY
May 27th, 2010
1:53 pm
So she's sophomoric? Who cares? Who wants to get their politics from a pop star anyway? I think the problem lies with those of you disappointed to find out about what she really is.

I'm not going to enjoy her music any less just because I now know she's naive and shallow. I never really expected anything less from a pop star.
Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers
59.
Craig
Boston
May 27th, 2010
1:53 pm
Maya's faux politics are loathsome but as a lover of both music and politics, I learned long ago not to mix the two in my crticism.

MIA is one of the most unique acts to come around in years, and she puts on a heck of a live show.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
60.
EBM
New York, NY
May 27th, 2010
1:54 pm
I was eager to read this article, as I very much enjoyed Maya's song "O Saya". However, after reading this article I have lost all interest in this artist, if she can be called that. i find her politics ignorant and negligent. I expected someone who is 34 years old and well traveled to have more depth, but Maya is all fluff. Another Designer Militant. Ugh!
Recommend Recommended by 12 Readers
61.
av2ts
Los Angeles, CA
May 27th, 2010
1:58 pm
Congratulations NYT - you've denigrated one of the few artists willing to talk about real issues in their music as hopelessly shallow and naive. From MIA, I learned about the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent civilians caught in a supposed "safe zone" in Sri Lanka - something the US press was completly silent about at the time. MIA uses her tweets to link to human rights reports ignored in the NY Times. No, she does not use the vocabulary of an academic, but she clearly wants to have a discourse about terrorism and freedom - something the world surely needs. If you were not allowed into a country because of what you said, or who your father was, you would be a little concerned as well. Shame on the NY Times for this hit piece on one of the most special artists around.
Recommend Recommended by 52 Readers
62.
Allison
MA
May 27th, 2010
1:58 pm
Does anyone else find it a fascinating piece of synchronicity that MIA eats truffle French fries in this article, and Megan Fox eats truffle French fries in Ms. Hirschberg's last article? I do!
Recommend Recommended by 53 Readers
63.
pranay128
Los Angeles
May 28th, 2010
2:11 am
MIA is doing what any other artist worth their salt is doing: combining her forms and ideas to challenge the existing order of what art is. I think a lot of readers here are wasting their time and giving her too much credit for being an expert on the issue of politics. Like Madonna, she is clearly borrowing an another identity here. The ideas and forms she uses, however misguided, are simply her collaging material. And as an artist, her only motivations are to develop this material. My feeling is that her forthcoming album will be more successful and accessible in this regard, than anything she has previously put out. And that is because she is maturing as an artist and entity. The same can't be said for those who are tripping over their feet trying to "understand" her.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
64.
Robert
Los Angeles
May 28th, 2010
2:11 am
This article is part of the the reason why so few popular artists feel comfortable making politically provocative and controversial art. Hirschberg's article pretends to be revealing the contradictions of a thoughtless pop star. But M.I.A.'s work has always made front and center its contradictions; it's mix of high and low, of glamour and street culture. But we live in a culture that doesn't like to wrestle with issues. In fact I can't imagine a more superficial and repetitively dull article on such an interesting and complex person. To be clear, she has condemned in interviews both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers for acts of violence. The article suggests, how dare she talk about poor people and like living in a nice house! How dare she like glamour and high fashion and also speak about oppression! It's no surprise that someone who comes out of a background of deprivation and insecurity would actually like nice things and a comfortable life. But those with the power to write articles like this, who've always had a nice home and good food, prefer people of color speaking only from a ghetto. That once they've achieved success (and as a result a loud public voice) their concerns over those left behind are dismissed as hypocritical.
Recommend Recommended by 46 Readers
65.
Arulini
NJ
May 28th, 2010
2:11 am
I am a Tamil and first a lover of MIA's music and not much fan of her 'activism'.

Yet what MIA says cannot be dismissed outright as incorrect and she has no clear understanding of it.

I see it as similar to right to left of varied opinions on any given socio-political matter.

Here is what Nobel laureate, Professor Elie Wiesel said on June 30th 2009 on his website about the plight of Tamils, only shows the genuine concern of all humanitarians of what takes place to Tamils in Sri Lanka.

"Wherever minorities are being persecuted we must raise our voices to protest. According to reliable sources, the Tamil people are being disenfranchised and victimized by the Sri Lanka authorities. This injustice must stop. The Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland."
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
66.
viva
World
May 28th, 2010
2:11 am
What Sri-Lankan government has done to Tamils in Sri-Lanka is horrible. There is a huge cry from the Human rights organizations to do an independent investigation on war crime. Obviously the Kadirgamar likes are trying to defend Sri-lankan government by doing a character assassination of MIA. 40,000 people including children were brutally murdered in one month, over 300,000 people were put in concentration camps, 80% of land belonged to Tamils in the war zoon have been taken away by the fascist Sri-Lankan government and it’s military, North and East part of Sri-lanka where Tamils live are run by military… if you don’t call it genocide, what else it is?
Thank you MIA for being the voice for the voiceless. And your music is superb, pls continue to promote the Human rights around the world.

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
67.
Michael
Sao Paulo
May 28th, 2010
2:11 am
I'm a fan of M.I.A. but I find her annoying at times. I do respect how she's not afraid to be controversial and politically incorrect and stands by everything she does. That's not something you can say about Madonna these days, or someone with music as bland as Lady Gaga.

I in no way think Maya is perfect, but I found this profile disappointing. It seems like it has such a negative agenda and a lot of the editing comes off as sleazily manipulative. I have a feeling a lot of those quotes are out of context. (But in no way am I suggesting that either party, Maya or Lynn, is some sort of innocent victim here.)
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
68.
yeahsure007
Washington, DC
May 28th, 2010
2:13 am
“Pop stars should be pretty.”
What a rebel, indeed. She sounds, like, really informed and WAY concerned about, like the position of, like, women in her, like, "homeland," (sounds like she spent most of her life in England, which is totally third world).
I'd say the writer's capable of hit-jobs given that The Cobains lost custody of Frances for a while-- but this? This is paean. It actually gives the popster's "talent" and sophomoric politics credence.
The obviously play-by-play juxtaposition of "MIA"s political posturing & vapid materialism are indeed hilarious, but I must say they are the very essence of all things Hollywood & Gangsta.
See, Gangsta just means you get to be a vapid, materialistic, uniformed, solipsistic conspicuous-consumer with IMPUNITY. On accounta the “of non-European descent” gangsta cred (& the marriage to the billionaire heir).
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
69.
Amy
Texas
May 28th, 2010
2:13 am
Thank you, Lynn Hircshberg for writing this article. I relish in the fact that you accurately displayed what a psuedo-intellectual MIA is.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
70.
Chandler02
Los Angeles
May 28th, 2010
2:13 am
I saw her interviewed on Bill Maher, and it is clear that she has NO IDEA about what is going on with in Shri Lanka. She is just using their suffering to gain attention for herself. I can't believe she married a Bronfman, lives in Brentwood, and then acts like she shuns luxury.
Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers
71.
Brian Fernando
Singapore
May 28th, 2010
2:13 am
Well.. MIA I love your music. Don't get discouraged by anyone, you should continue voice agaist the the terrorist statae Sri Lanka.

While most Tamils despised LTTE for its totalitarian methods and for bringing only misery to them, but now every Tamil believe that the LTTE's presence gave the Tamils a semblance of a chance to have a dignified existence in Sri Lanka.

With LTTE gone, they felt, Tamils would remain permanent second class citizens.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
72.
Eric
Austin
May 28th, 2010
2:13 am
Wow, this is a stunningly good article, but unfortunately made me realize how supremely boring MIA is. It's really a miracle that you pulled 9 pages together on her.
Recommend Recommended by 12 Readers
73.
sheela
washington, dc
May 28th, 2010
2:14 am
The UN seriously contemplated declaring what happened to the Tamils (not just the tamil tigers) in 2008 a genocide, and may very well have done so if Israel and America hadn't pressured it not to. For however "hollow" and "contrived" she might sound, there is still an obvious need for her point of view. It is a point of view that even this reporter failed to consider.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
74.
M to the G
San Francisco, CA
May 28th, 2010
2:14 am
I am by no means an expert on the Tamil/Sinhalese conflict, but it appears that Maya needs a serious pimpslap for using her backstory and her peoples’ real struggle as magazine fodder to create a Madonna-esque mystique for herself. Pop and politics rarely mix well. What she is, is a super-shrewd businesswoman.

If her message as political spokesperson is to be taken seriously, then Ms. A is going to have to put her money where her mouth is. Remember, Bob Marley was believed to be supporting about half the island of Jamaica at the height of his fame. Ms. A? Doubtful.

She’s now in the biz of attacking Beiber and Gaga. She must not carry too much faith in her music anymore. Become what you hate.

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
75.
Terri Walsh
NYC
May 28th, 2010
2:15 am
You'd think she could at least have a little grace and emulate the philanthropic legacy of the Bronfman family.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers

76.
Anya
US
May 28th, 2010
2:15 am
This is a bizarre slam piece. I'm no fan of M.I.A. dissing Gaga--which seems hypocritical--but as for the rest of it, yes, you can still be an artistic rebel and live in Brentwood and give birth in a hospital while still having sympathy for those who do not. Wow, she stops in a middle of a sentence to listen to the waiter? How high-and-mighty of her! What would the author of this piece have had her do?
Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers
77.
rivergirl
Bath, Maine
May 28th, 2010
12:20 pm
I suppose Maya tweeting Lynn Hirschberg's private cell phone number after seeing this article is also a statement about privacy, censorship and the American government? Not a fan of her music or politics, but sure admire her PR savvy!
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
78.
Midwest Guy
Milwaukee, WI
May 28th, 2010
12:20 pm
I think the video/track "Born Free" is brilliant and necessary. If you haven't seen it, view it. Its powerful. Artists like M.I.A are long over due. We need more artists who are willing to take risks and speak out about issues of social injustices. The world will not change unless people are willing to take risks and speak out. We need more little children who point to the Emperor and say, "HEY, THAT EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES." M.I.A is one child who speaks from the heart and speaks truth to power. She is a hero.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
79.
John K.
Midwest
May 28th, 2010
12:20 pm
The phrase that occurred to me while reading this article was Christopher Lasch's phrase "radical chic." It's exactly what's wrong with American political culture today. A person's politics becomes just another brand name, just another commodity. The person them self becomes a brand name and a commodity. You can fight against it, but if you're a pop star-- especially if you're a pop star-- that's what happens. MIA's ultimate message is two fold: MIA herself, and the commodification of political culture and values. If you just wear the right clothes in just the right way, listen to the right political music, develop your own sense of "style" in just the right way, and-- most importantly-- self yourself in the right way, you become "genuine" and a political movement unto yourself. You don't need real political struggle. You need to sell yourself and your music.

MIA seems like she's on a grand tour to become a commodity, to market herself, and to use politics to sell her music. No matter how sincere she may be, her politics is drowned out by her concern with clothes, beats, photo shoots, radical chic, pseudo-radicalism, etc. Her message is swept away in flashy images of consumer culture and heavy beats. That's the ultimate message one gets from her: commodification of political culture in its fusion with pop music. It trivializes what politics and struggle is really about.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
80.
Patrick
Brooklyn
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
Ron Rosenbaum once wrote a piece of former teen idol Troy Donahue in the village voice, and there was a piece in Esquire a short while before John Lennon was murdered titled"he's nowhere,man." They are the only comparable stories by mainstream writers to utterly eviscerate their subject as does this profile.This is a devastating piece of work,no matter how much spin is countered.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
81.
av2ts
Los Angeles, CA
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
And to the people commenting who think it is some great contradiction to have money, like nice things and also use that power and money to speak out for the poor, you really ought to get a grip. Capitalism is full of contradictions. Instead of focusing on the fact that she lives in Brentwood and eats truffle fries, why don't you spend 5 minutes reading the International Crisis Group report on the massacre of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka that our Government was completely silent about. Or find the youtube video of the Sri Lankan army shooting innocent, unarmed people in the head.
Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers
82.
Kate
NJ
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
Well she certainly gave you plenty of rope. Allison's observation (comment 62) that truffled French fries appeared in the last profile Ms. Hirschberg wrote, and now in this one, is an interesting one.
Recommend Recommended by 12 Readers
83.
Elle
Minneapolis, MN
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
I love M.I.A.'s music and have since 2005; the music M.I.A. makes is groundbreaking and extremely euphonic to listen to. That said, let me kvetch.

As an American and one who can understand that her country can be and has been and will most likely again be at some point to some degree wrong in its behavior and/or actions on many things, why then, M.I.A., Ms Arulpragasam, do you live and work in my country, a country you seem to hate or at the very least consider extremely dumb? What point are you trying to make or prove besides coming off as a huge hypocrite?

I realize that all art has subtext and should not necessarily be taken at face value. Perhaps my mistake was my genuine enjoyment of M.I.A.'s music without deeper research into its content. If Ms. Arulpragasam's music's message is at least partly about how horrid the United States and American culture and life is, well Ms. Arulpragasam, thanks but no thanks.

Oh and trust me, I and a significantly large number of other Americans are very aware of what our country does or does not do, good and bad. Thank you.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
84.
nyerinpacnw
Washington
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
"...very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings."

The Native people who for thousands of years inhabited the area that came to be known as Los Angeles (and Brentwood) might not agree. Contrary to what most Americans believe (and obviously that includes people at The New York Times) the history of this land did not begin with Euro settlers.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
85.
Jill
Des Moines
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
She reminds me of a gutter punk girl I knew who said, "I just want to protest." "Protest what?" I asked. She looked at me blankly as if it was a stupid question.
Also, shouldn't she send Madonna chocolates?
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
86.
Lily Bart
Cambridge, MA
May 29th, 2010
1:35 pm
Social Climber. She seems obsessed with fame and has no idea how the big bad world will treat her.

Oppression? What's that?

Eventually falling out with the popular crowd? That will really burn.
Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
87.
Debora
Berlin
May 29th, 2010
1:36 pm
Maya is a great personality, as you can see in this documentation with Spike Jonze. http://www.vbs.tv...
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers
88.
Donald
Brooklyn NY
May 29th, 2010
1:36 pm
Paper Planes is not a "rap song". Off to a bad start.

And Rob Cook, whatever the mythological, wonderful "Brooklyn kids" might be up to, MIA herself has been doing it for years: Her first album came out in 2005.

If you can put on Bird Flu and call it bland, though, god bless.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
89.
Tilian
Washington DC
May 29th, 2010
1:37 pm
So let me get this straight, Lynn, the point you're trying to make. Girl from developing country. Truffled french fries. I get it. She either loses her identity or she's not allowed to play the game? She can't draw on her past and enjoy the fruits of this spectacular machine she's part of? She's supposed to be squatting in the mud eating rice with her hands because that's what people from developing countries do? Okay. I get it. Only us first-world sorts are supposed to be able to get rich and enjoy it.

I felt an overwhelming tone of 'how dare she' to this article. How dare she discuss a civil war? How dare she make reference to human rights or poverty? How dare she use her incredible talent for attracting attention, to draw attention to anything heavier or more serious than the stuff of People magazine.

But Lynn, I can understand your defensiveness. Your last article was about Megan Fox. We know the world you live in. We live there too.

I never knew or cared at all about M.I.A. before I read this article. Now I just really have to respect the girl. Break out of the box baby and stay out there.
Recommend Recommended by 25 Readers
90.
ChrisK
tucson
May 29th, 2010
1:37 pm
It's very refreshing to read a non-fawning article about a celebrity. I think it's hilarious that MIA tweeted Hirschberg's phone number and is whining about the piece. Like most celebrities, I imagine she's used to fluff pieces and was shocked that not all writers want to kiss her butt.

Hirschberg looked seriously at MIA's politics rather than simply glossing over them. I guess MIA doesn't like being taken seriously and scrutinized. Dissing Hirschberg only makes MIA look more childish.
Recommend Recommended by 12 Readers
91.
Kyle
San Marcos, TX
May 29th, 2010
1:37 pm
Maya repeatedly referred to the situation as a “genocide.” “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” Maya told me. “He’s not from Africa — I’m from there."

perhaps I'm mistaken but shes from London.... and then Sri Lanka. and last i check those are not in Africa. Then again I might just be misreading this quote.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
92.
ariaribobari
brooklyn, ny
May 29th, 2010
1:37 pm
I was going to respond to the article, but a startling theme emerged in the comments that I would rather address. Maya was an infant when her family returned to Sri Lanka. She was a grade schooler when her mother took her back to London, where she lived in public housing and was mistaken for a Pakistani. Her identification with Tamil Tigers, however misplaced given her wealth making success, in likely genuine. Does she have to understand the issues? Not really. Does her stance get in the way of unity building in Sri Lanka? Maybe. But from the inside of a conflict, when it's essential to one's identity and sense of place, allegiances, understandings, and stances are frequently incoherent. Maya's family was displaced as a result of the conflict in Sri Lanka. She grew up in a tough neighborhood and calls dropping out of high school the best choice she ever made. Her lack of coherence doesn't surprise me. Even her identification with the PLO shows the limits of her understanding. The PLO eventually gave birth to the PA, and works with (sometimes at cross purposes, albeit) rather than against Israel, for the most part. She's not an academic. She's not a brilliant foreign policy analyst. She's not a humanitarian dealing with the fallout of civil war, trying to help people regain lives entirely shaped by fighting and uncertainty. She's a good looking girl from the projects, filled up with anger directed at "enemies" who in fact were the adversaries of her ethnic group in the country from which her mother ferreted her away.
Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers
93.
Conor
Harlem, NY
May 29th, 2010
1:38 pm
This ridiculously vapid article does absolutely no justice to the seismic political and musical force known as M.I.A. Hirschberg's more-politically-astute-than-Maya music journalism is in reality a drive-by-shooting piece. How shameless can NYTimes be to print this?

The author fails to appreciate several stellar qualities of this bold artist's work that have made her so provocatively revolutionary in mainstream music. M.I.A. has deftly culled together many musical and stylistic influences from around the world(or did those 30 Indian drummers just magically show up to play together?), and the result has been some of the most exceptional music to come around in decades. She has made a point to use her amplified voice to talk about the Tamils and Palestinians--that pesky issue of people's rights to self-determination that the NYTimes would otherwise myopically forget was a political concept worth exploring. M.I.A. has just released the "Born Free" video that depicts the violent outcomes of rounding up people for what they look like (did she have to put the word "ARIZONA" at the beginning of the video for this lucid reporter to, like, grasp the signficance?). Of course the video was censored in this country... it RAISED ISSUES. M.I.A. is a 21st century internationalist artist, and should be given abundant credit for these heights of expression.

(For a much better analysis of the video, see radical music journalist Alexander Billett's piece: www.rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com/2010/05/i-was-born-free.html)

So why did Hirschberg take this slant? Why did she focus on the quiet irony of olive rolls and truffle fries and tiger costumes? Because perhaps she feels with a bit o' consternation that this is a music that abhors categorization, that this artist can indeed be contradictory and yet consistently groundbreaking, that the new voice in radical culture is a "Third World Woman" who knows the power of saying the word "terrorist" to get your attention by the throat and then make you think about the complex politics of violence coming from either poor people or big governments armed to the teeth. Perhaps these songs can become soundtracks to exploring Fanon, Césaire, Freire.

What if millions of NYTimes readers had gotten a dynamic, respectful treatment on this artist? More people would have looked into the political avenues in art that M.I.A. explores--the ability for limelight to become megaphone, for musicians to create songs without these stifling borders and visas, for art to be politicized rather than the other way around. But no, we got an ill-considered, sophomoric, steaming pile of bad analysis that at the end of the day probably made Hirschberg feel super clever about herself... until her phone number was tweeted on the WWW by guess-who.

And so, in the end, M.I.A. still has her agitprop skills working, pushing, counter-attacking, illuminating, while Hirschberg will be wholly forgotten once this album spectacularly drops.

P.S. love the skyscraper swing pic.

Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers
94.
mel
New York, NY
May 29th, 2010
1:38 pm
How are you part of the struggle, part of the people - when you're in southern cali buying an extra house for your friends to live in? Doesn't sound like much of a struggle to me.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
95.
m28
Texas
May 29th, 2010
1:39 pm
“I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” Maya told me. “He’s not from Africa — I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’"

I don't know whether she's a genius or an idiot, but I could probably take MIA a lot more seriously if she actually knew what continent Sri Lanka belongs to. She's not African any more than Bono is. She's Asian.
Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
96.
SLY1
Phoenix
May 29th, 2010
1:40 pm
I appreciate the fact that finally an artist since Rage Against The Machine has the courage to speak about Mass Murder and the hypocrisy in international politics thanks MIA...
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
97.
Elise
NY
May 29th, 2010
1:40 pm
Dear LH: I thought your response to the tweet was funny and spot on. The article that prompted the "fit" was a bit snarky in parts (giving any woman a hard time for backtracking on pregnancy decisions seems a little unnecessary), but was probably in most ways an accurate portrayal of, if nothing else, the divide between old school and new school. The M.I.A. brand should take the next page out of the Madonna handbook and craft a reinvention.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
98.
Kris
Moriarty, New Mexico
May 29th, 2010
1:41 pm
To start off with, I felt that the whole article was more or less Lynn Hirschberg criticizing everything about M.I.A., from her lifestyle to her political views to her artistic expressions. That being said, I think there are some important things to keep in mind. First, so many complained about the length of the article but I can't help but think that it is much more condensed then the actual interview that took place. Now is it not possible that Hirschberg took the liberty of picking out quotes from M.I.A. and putting them where it made her article turn out like she wanted it to? The media is notorious for putting spins on things to make an article juicier or more compelling. I did not find this to be a fair article at all as it seemed all she did was attack M.I.A. for being wrong, ignorant, fake, hypocritical and a liar. If the article was a little more even in what it said then I would be more inclined to take it at face value, but it came off to me as being so lopsided on what it was aiming to do that it just became an attack against a successful artist. I have seen interviews with M.I.A. and I would be the first to tell you that she doesn't always come off as well spoken. Like many people, she has her ideas but doesn't necessarily convey them in a fluid manner. I wouldn't say it means that she doesn't know what she is talking about, which leads me to my next point...

I find it amusing how so many people criticize her for her lack of knowledge on the situation. I will venture and say that not everyone who has posted a comment about this article has a vast knowledge of what is taking place, or has taken place in Sri Lanka for the last 50 years. So many Americans are ignorant as to what is going on in their own country. I am not an expert on what has taken place there, but I do know of the civil war and I am familiar with the Tamil Tigers. They are recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries. I do know they have used suicide bombers, have attacked innocent civilians, and are accused of recruiting children for their cause. It is widely believed that they gain much of their money through donations from expatriate Tamils along with sales of narcotics and extortion (along with other means). The Central Bank bombing is attributed to them. I can also tell you that they have sat down for peace talks on several different occasions and agreed to a cease fire with the Sri Lanka government. It was the Sri Lanka government who in 2006 decided that military force was the only option in settling the issue. As of last month, the LTTE was defeated by the government's military, bringing this issue to an end for now. Both parties have been accused of various human rights violations. M.I.A. has stated before that she believe in what the Tamil Tigers stood for but not necessarily the way they were going about it. Maybe her "Give war a chance" comment was a jab at the Sri Lanka government for them forgoing the ceasefire? I don't know because I wasn't in her mind when she said it.

Lastly, is it wrong that M.I.A. is a successful artist and enjoys the fruits that come with it? I mean, if anyone of us won the lottery, are we going to take all that money and give it to a charity or financially support a liberation group whose values we share? Probably not. We would all spoil ourselves a bit, if not a lot. So she bought a house in Brentwood...okay. We wouldn't by ourselves a house close to where we worked? By houses for family? And cars? We all know we would. As humans we all have characteristics that we will label as "flaws" if seen in other people. We all have our beliefs and we all have levels of success and how we intertwine the two is up to ourselves.

In closing, these are just my opinions, like everyone else has stated theirs. And as it has always been throughout history, an opinion can never be proven as fact. That's why we can argue opinions and not argue facts. Take care.

"The only sin that we never forgive in each other is a difference in opinion." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
99.
realist78
Australia
May 29th, 2010
1:41 pm
Fantastic piece of jouranlism Lynn. Very knowledgeable, objective and detailed commentary of the person behind the artist and you are painting a picture of her which the readers could almost touch and feel. Congratulations and keep it up. I will be a regular reader of you from now on..
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
100.
Markus
Detroit
May 29th, 2010
1:41 pm
Yeah, yeah she is cute and all, but might want to stick to sampling The Clash, their music and their smarts. No wonder this piece pissed her off so, it is less than flattering. MIA, please step out of the out of the limo and get yourself back in the studio and try to make more music please. We wanna like you.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers

101.
Andy at Sydney
Australia
May 29th, 2010
1:41 pm
Mia rides on LTTE, LTTE rides on Tamils, Tamils ride on the world....
Thanks for exposing MIA the (not so) terrorist. She is using the misery of people of Lanka for her gains! Has she contributed any thing from her wealth for the benefits of poor Tamils yet?
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
102.
MarriedtoaTamil
Maryland
May 29th, 2010
1:42 pm
Good article...it sheds light on a young, albeit angry woman who uses provocation in a naive (sometimes effective) way to bring publicity to what is going on in Sri Lanka. I am Sinhalese and married a Tamil. My Sinhalese family/friends have welcomed my husband with open arms, whereas his Tamil family/friends have treated me as subhuman. When you live your life (like MIA) out of anger, you lose sight of what is real. I like her music and do not fault her for falling in love with an heir (as I fell in love with a Tamil), but she needs to realize she is inciting anger and self--pity rather than peace and self-worth. Many Tamils I have met are so angry and support the Tigers even though they are afraid of them because the Tigers stole/destroyed their properties and sons. Many Tamils supported the Tigers financially knowing they killed innocent people through suicide bombs. I cannot condone the killing of children and woman to try to get change. There are many real problems and grievances in Sri Lanka, but change can not be made by anger and self-pity. I am hoping that as MIA matures, she will realize her ignorances and affect positive change through making the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Tamil diaspora feel valued and give them opportunities to send their money to rebuild their country instead of tear it down. My husband and I want to be able to take our children back and make them feel proud to be a Tamil, a Sinhalese and more importantly, a Sri Lankan.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
103.
Allen Craig
San Francisco, CA
May 29th, 2010
1:42 pm
Gosh, it's so easy to speak out about any wrong you like from your mansion, but it's a bit tougher to speak out when you have to sacrifice for the cause. Maya has obviously decided where her passion really is.

Would we be reading about her if she didn't have unlimited funding and automatic connections to all the top players in the music industry?
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
104.
Keith
U.S.A.
May 29th, 2010
8:17 pm
I remember a story about 5 years ago from someone who claimed to know her while they were both art students. The other person didn't seem to like her much but she was described as a bright, ambitious, fairly creative young woman who wanted fame. Well she's now famous. And in fairness to her she is still very young. She's now wealthy and famous, so maybe she can use that to make even better art when she's more grown up.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
105.
Brett
New Orleans, LA
May 29th, 2010
8:18 pm
The really odd thing about this article is that the reporter clearly was trying to have a Tom Wolfe moment -- I live in New Orleans and it reminds me of seeing youngsters trundling to Jazz Fest 2010 in Woodstock duds.

Yeah M.I.A. has conflicting sides of herself -- who doesn't?

Still a big fan.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
106.
julianterris
Wgtn. NZ
May 29th, 2010
8:18 pm
The only thing worse than a politician masquerading as a musician -is a culture vulture who exploits the pain of others for their own personal gain. I was bored after the first paragraph: boring the audience into indifference must be a new political stratagem? Reading the aftermath was like watching two housewives fight over the last Gucci at a Harrods sale. "but what a waste of this once-great newspapers' resources." JAT.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
107.
jean
new york, ny
May 29th, 2010
8:26 pm
Her music is awesome, and her politics are incendiary. I think that she fits perfectly into the canons of agitprop. Unfortunately she also looks like a hypocrite--talking about poor Tamils and uprising and war, while almost married to a scion of music industry and living in poshness. I guess you can't avoid money's lure, eh, MIA?
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
108.
TDB
Philadelphia, PA
May 30th, 2010
11:31 am
No offense to those involved, but I care very little about the situation in Sri Lanka (as I'm sure Sri Lankans care very little about the problems in the Middle East or Northern Ireland). Sure, it's terrible and all; but I've got bigger things on my plate.

M.I.A's association with Sri Lankan Tamils is utterly meaningless to me. It certainly did not affect my appreciation of her music (I generally like it). But her exposure as a less-than-articulate/-aware/perhaps -literate charlatan (an exposure that predates this article, to be sure) turns my stomach.

We are all agreed, though, that she can fill out a dress quite nicely.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
109.
Artifact
Portland
May 30th, 2010
11:31 am
I guess if the writer of the article continues to say that her politics are naive, ill-formed, unsubtle, detrimental, and inchoate, people who read the article will think so as well. Weird.

I personally thought the Born Free video was great... very effective -- heavy handed yes, but well made and anti-violent, anti-fascist in its message. Exploitative? Of what or whom?
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
110.
Leah Pollard
Brooklyn
May 30th, 2010
11:31 am
Love M.I.A. and have for years. I hate these comments. I'm sorry, was she supposed to remain in the projects of London to maintain street cred? Because that's not what male rappers are expected to do. What's wrong with being successful? Isn't that any professional persons goal? I know she's really pretty and blah blah blah, but to be honest I find her image very feminist because she's not usually dressed up in bikinis but in the kind of street clothes I grew up around in NYC in the 80's, back when fashion seemed less manufactured and more personal and authentic, i.e. the territory of poor people.
When did America become this place about never talking about your political views and being censored. It all seems really un-american to me. I'm glad she couldn't get into the country to make Kala because that album rocks just as much as the first one, and it's surely because of her traveling during the recording. You really hear the international flavors on that album. Don't listen to the haters M.I.A. They're not used to women having opinions in public.
Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers
111.
Chris787
Los Angeles, CA
May 30th, 2010
11:31 am
Kudos to the author for being very courageous on this piece and exposing M.I.A. for what she really is - an "artist" who has exploited a political issue for her own gain and sadly doesn't get that she has contributed in a way to the Tamils ability to continue to wage their war. She is very much a part of and is marrying into the very "system" that she "rejects" while enjoying all the wealth that comes with it. In short - she is a talentless hypocrite.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
112.
T
United States
May 30th, 2010
11:31 am
I find it funny that some of these comments are implying that this author portrayed M.I.A. in an unfair negative light.

She didn't need the author to do that. M.I.A. did that to herself with that incredibly vapid interview she have when she was on Real Time with Bill Maher last year. I knew she was full of it then.

There is nothing wrong with being a pop artist, so stop faking the funk M.I.A. and pretending you are above it all...you really aren't. Oh yeah, and putting the author's telephone number on twitter because you disagree with an accurate portrayal of your crap really proves it.
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
113.
VAE
Detroit, MI
May 30th, 2010
11:32 am
Less telling than anything M.I.A. said to Hirschberg for this article was M.I.A.'s response to it. I don't begrudge the artist her commercial success, and I fail to see how her relationship with an heir, in and of itself, strains her credibility. However, M.I.A.'s very public hissy fit over the piece confirm that M.I.A. is indeed as petty a person as some already inferred.

Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers
114.
Emily
Atlanta
May 30th, 2010
11:34 am
Perhaps to the writer's dismay, I'm a huge MIA fan who has always been aware of her violent politics. (I count the "PLO" line in "Sunshowers" as one of my favorites, actually). As the author chronicles quite skillfully in her article, MIA was inventing herself in the early 2000s. Meanwhile Bush was turning up the heat on the war on terror and much of the American public, still shell-shocked from 9/11, was offering him full support, unmitigated by any sort of understanding of the complex issues (whether rampant Westernization or ethnic conflict)behind the violence. The Bush response to terrorism was comically near-sighed-- all terrorists are inherently "evil" and must be eradicated. Meanwhile MIA depicts the Tigers as heroic underdogs. MIA's simplistic view of terrorism is just a mirror's reflection of an opposite, but similarly simplistic view of terrorism that was popular at the time. As this view has gradually lost popularity, and lost exposure in the media, MIA has accordingly de-emphasized what has always been a small part of her act, her derisive politics and controversial support for the Tamil Tigers.
MIA's a reactionary, and a brilliant one. The writer marvels at her decision to wear designer jewelry with a generally low art photographer. But if it takes an MIA photo-shoot to show you severe economic disparities, at a time when CEOs are cutting billion dollar bailout-funded paychecks while millions are unemployed, you haven't been paying attention. Had the writer looked past MIA's politics long enough to consider the value of her art and her message, she might have noticed that the seeming contradictions of MIA's act are characteristic of the artist herself. Plopped into the West out of the third world, made incredibly rich from her exotic, third-world inspired music, she herself is defined by the strange jungle village meets Greenwich Village mix that characterized that photo shoot. Her persona is therefore much more authentic than Lady Gaga, who uses her "weirdness" and experimental sexuality as a catchall justification for whatever shocking outfit or other gimmick that happens to pop into her head and get her attention. I like MIA because at least her albeit unsophisticated political views call attention to the legitimate underlying issues behind terrorism. This whole debate hinges on the idea that the legitimacy of someone as an artist has to do with anything but her art. MIA's political views only infiltrate her art subtly, and shouldn't compromise its more explicit purpose-- to call for more attention to the third world and to express her own contradictory identity. Damn catchy, too.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
115.
Sudhir
Washington, DC
May 30th, 2010
11:34 am
Please call whatever you like, but don't call it music. It would be an insult.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
116.
zootsuitbeatnnic
Chicago, IL
May 30th, 2010
11:34 am
Two things:

I guess this music is radical if you were brought up on Madonna, Spears, Mayer, Buber, et al. There are many people making radical music today. Maya isn't one of them.

Radical isn't what you say, it's how you live. And Maya, like most celebrities, talks a far better game than she lives.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
117.
Sharm
Texas
May 30th, 2010
11:34 am
a well balanced article, which exposes her as the self aggrandizing ill-informed unintelligent opportunist that she is. and yes, the 9 pages could have been used on someone far more deserving, yet sometimes it is necessary to show the person behind the curtain in larger than life media creations (Palin, anyone?)
Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
118.
John
Cambridge UK
May 30th, 2010
1:11 pm
"The biggest Sinhalese community is in Santa Monica, people who are sworn enemies of the Tamils, which is me.”

Anyone who speaks in such broad terms about another ethnic group has a dangerously simplistic understanding of politics. Tamil Nationalism is based on the doctrine of self-segregation along the lines of language and "race" (even though Sinhalese and Tamils are the same people, just different languages). It also calls anyone else who is not Tamil a "colonizer" and calls for the exclusion and expulsion of Tamil speaking Muslims. Tamil Nationalist organizations exist in Malaysia (HINDRAF), India (DMK), Canada and the UK (VVT, AK Kannan), and other countries where Tamil diaspora are large. MIA has turned a blind eye on all of the atrocities committed by Tamils againsts Tamils, and as long as her and other Tamils continue to do so, her simplistic rhetoric will continue the suffering, not abate it.
Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
119.
Ghengis
DC
May 30th, 2010
1:11 pm
Nice one. I was chortling by the 3rd paragraph where the "rebellious" and "radical" PLO-lovin' MIA is revealed to be married to a record company exec named Bronfmann. Hardy har. Give war a chance, huh? Isn't that what's been going on? It's certainly been working out great for all involved. This is music for angry young departmental assistants to get their revolution thang on(seriously, that's who listens to it) until they get accepted into a 2-year exec training program and switch to James Blunt.


Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers
120.
Katie
San Francisco, CA
May 30th, 2010
1:11 pm
Was a fan of M.I.A.'s music previous to reading this article, and am a fan after. Just like every other musician, artist, author, or other public figure I'm a fan of, I understand that there is a complicated and sometimes contradictory human being behind their creations.

Didn't enjoy being constantly patronized by Hirschberg and her completely obvious agenda. Pieces like this are insulting to readers.

The pictures were very nice, however.
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
121.
kz
stamford,ct
May 30th, 2010
1:11 pm
MIA, rebel with a cause... and a millionaire husband and mansion in Brentwood. Now that's true conviction!
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
122.
Kurt O
Dallas
May 30th, 2010
1:12 pm
Is there an iPhone app for the Bollywood-esque photo collages? IF not someone needs to build one. Otherwise, I think the article captures the new remix culture pretty well - we all, by participating, "perpetrate the fraud." Don't fight it - just enjoy the ride!
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
123.
TheExpatriate
Pittsburgh, PA
May 30th, 2010
1:12 pm
The author of this article seems shocked, positively shocked, that a member of an oppressed minority group might have sympathy toward the concept of armed resistance. She also seems rather angry that a wealthy pop star would be willing to cross class lines, from the writer's side, no less, to sympathize with poor people.

What a pity that the times can't muster half the outrage toward the actual oppression of ethnic groups such as the Tamils and the Palestinians than it does toward a pop star. How pathetic.
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
124.
aaronkelly
Nawlins
May 31st, 2010
12:03 am
What's with all the m.i.a. exposure? Why her? She's been glossing the front end of NYT for a week now. For someone who's violently derogatory (watch her wonderful "Gingers" video, threatening red-headed types), Unless I'm missing something, I'll remain mystified. Save it, don't break it, NYT.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers
125.
Adam
Philadelphia
May 31st, 2010
12:03 am
When do the lit critics start reviewing comic books?
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader

126.
Geoff G.
NJ.
May 31st, 2010
12:03 am
I don't buy a lot of music, but I have all of MIA. and plan to buy her new one. Anytime established media comes out and tries to trivialize new artistic efforts, its time to pay attention and disable your preconcepts so you can open up to new perspetives and contribute to the evolution of our culture. I think many of us watching this oil gusher in the Gulf are feeling the forces of revolution rising up where we need so scream or have someone do it for us. Its become a metaphore - an architype in my dreams for uncontrollable forces - be they Banksters in NYC, or the earth's high pressure oil, or the sun's solar flares, or our own teenager's unrelenting requests for money and refusal to get serious about growing up. With homeless and joblessness increasing, revolution will become part of the mainstream, not something we all criticize - pointing to terrorists. If crime suddenly increased in your neighborhood, wouldn't you think about arming yourself and getting training? Well this summer there will be more riots as the oppressed and exploited rise up and say they 've had enough. They will be looking for someone like Maya to find her groove and accurately and loudly express their feelings - to gush forth, relieving the building pressure, releasing the tension and maybe even letting us know we don't have to just let others manipulate this world. Its ok to fight back, to organize and when faced with a strong military, guerilla warfare is about all you have left - See Red Dawn 1984, but imagine the enemy is here within. Lets not forget our country started with the Revolutionary war declaring our independence from a tyrannical over taxing Colonial power. Here in Morristown, where he originally camped, I wonder where our George Washington is today. I see Maya as one of the earlier more insightful ones trying to convert feelings many of us share into warning shouts to rouse us from our American stupor. She is still young, maturing, trying to sort out the various forces at work around her - Lets give her and others like her a chance to find herself, her mission, and give voice to what needs to be said.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
127.
Bryan
St. Paul, MN
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
So much for objectivity in journalism. Listen to the journalist pretend to be a big fan of Maya's in the recordings on the neetrecordings site. Listen to the journalist manipulate Maya into getting the truffle french fries. Listen to the journalist waving off the important issues Maya wanted to focus on.
Recommend Recommended by 16 Readers
128.
Sharon
Schenectady NY
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
Is it really possible to be oppressed and living in Brentwood at the same time? The video Born Free was dreadful. It had all the subtlety of killing a mosquito with a nuclear bomb. It was completely predictable. Gavras should watch his father's movies to see how to make a political point without making the audience feel as though they were being beaten over the head. Many people who follow world news have been famliar with what has gone on in Sri Lanka for years. Not all Americans are narrow and unfeeling about conflicts that might not touch them personally. But the idea that the FBI and the CIA are all over MIA - well, get over yourself, girlfriend.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
129.
Josh
New York, NY
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
What a disgusting hit job by a hack writer who takes cheap shot after cheap shot at a talented artist she clearly does not understand in the slightest. Let's see. There's the Tipper Gore-like quoting the lyrics from a part of "Paper Planes," a pop joke which is rendered meaningless when separated from the music. There's the ridiculous and nearly constant insertion of meaningless details about what MIA is eating, what she is wearing, making it seem as though MIA is obsessed about these things when really it's Hirschberg with the sad obsession. What kind of a "writer" mentions that the interviewee is eating truffle-flavored french fries in two consecutive profiles? Hirschberg is probably on Atkins or something. In any case, the point seems to be similar to that made by conservatives about Michael Moore i.e. How can he claim to care about poor people when he's fat/rich? It's a profoundly stupid and "naive" argument. Hirschberg and the NYT should be ashamed.
Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers
130.
Johnny
New York, NY
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
http://neetrecordings.com/blog/node/50

For everyone questioning M.I.A.'s integrity based on this article - the link above will take you to clips of the actual interview unedited by the spin master Lynn Hirschberg who seems hellbent on ruining the reputation of any remotely interesting artist she has the chance of interviewing (anyone else remember her "interview" with Nirvana/Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love in the 90's?)

Hirschberg's goal seems to be self promotion and she attempts to achieve it by taking the words of the artist's she interviews out of context to create an unflattering portrayal. M.I.A. is an inherently controversial figure and the idea that Hirschberg felt the need to fabricate controversy is a sign of lazy journalism - no fabrication or manipulation would have been needed if she just presented the facts as they are and the quotes with appropriate context.

Also, the NYT coverage of popular media is pretty pathetic - anyone reading this as their primary source of pop culture news is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Having said all of that - Ryan Mcginley's photos are pretty awesome... probably the only remotely interesting part of this article.
Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers
131.
Vlad-Drakul
Sweden
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
moot
Vancouver
May 26th, 2010
9:19 pm
''I'm glad I read that, now I won't give her another thought. It must be very, very easy to be M.I.A, playing "controversial" or "terrorist" (gasp!), when you retreat at night to...Brentwood. What a renegade, buying cheap street fashion (when you are engaged to an heir). Next.''

Preciselly the effect the article had on me. It was a relentlessly negative article with a surreal contempt about it like some unpleasant scene from a Kubrick film.
Sure ely the writer could not fail to realise as they poured out 9 pages of the contmptous stuff. So then why spend so much time ona demolition job? Seems kind of sadistic if you ask me. ) pages of what a horrible åhoney overrated spoiled brat who plays with fire and uses people.
Even if you are right (I like a couple of her songs but their not GREAT)that she is a 3rd world Madonna diva why not just say she's naive, manipulatative and shallow. That would have done the trick. Some instinct says its not that simple!

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
132.
Marlon134
St. Paul MN
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
By the way, Hirshberg is also slipping. It's not the first time she has pulled the truffled French fries trick then mentioned it in an article: see comment #62.
Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers
133.
james murphy
new york
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am
Does it strike anyone else as dishonest that Hirschberg uses the truffled french fries to make fun of M.I.A. even though, as M.I.A. revealed on her website by releasing the tape of the interview, Hirschberg herself ordered the fries?
Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers
134.
Liz
new york, ny
May 31st, 2010
12:13 am

I think the criticism of the article's author that MIA is using the Tamils suffering to promote herself is misplaced - she is if any getting hurt because of it.

And contrary to what Ahilan Kadirgamar say, MIA is doing the world a service to focus attention on what is happening in Sri Lanka. She may not have all the answers - but even if she does not, and even if she does not get all the semantics right (as to how academics define genocide for example) she does a service by focussing some attention on Sri Lanka - which has become perhaps even worse than Burma (opposition candidates incaracaerated, a dozen journalists killed, Independent TV stations regularly attacked) with a military that is 99% Sinhalese.


Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
135.
npeters
Minnesota
May 31st, 2010
12:14 am
You know that she is not genuinely interested about her own Tamil ethnicity when does not even know the Tamil New Year! Shame on her for making millions by exploiting the innocent people in her country. She seems to be more worried about the dawning of peace in her country. I guess she will not be able to make money if that happens. I guess the non suspecting western media has been duped again by a charlatan.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
136.
Spanky
Liliput, NY
May 31st, 2010
4:40 pm
I hate it when American journalists, participants in one of the world's most violent, racist media landscapes, decry foreign acts (even domestic ones) for "espousing violence" and "militant" idealism. Please. Get the plank out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck from your neighbor's eye. A lot of the militance going on right now globally is thanks to our own underhanded foreign policy and backdoor dealing on the world stage. And the media is prime among tools used to help it all go down smoothly.
Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers
137.
VictimsShare
Boston
May 31st, 2010
4:40 pm
The trend of international community of present day is to allow brutes to run wild and follow the leader blind folded, justify improper bully tactics by name calling as it suits them for political goals.
Victims of such brutes having to depend on free media, likes of MIA, Oprah and social activists. Ignoring the real issue enough to scrutinize MIA shows how people judge "do gooders" and the reason why people hold back even when they can make a positive difference for a better world.

Sri Lanka had long history of violations against the innocent people goes back to 1949 that was when they got given the independence from British. Not that they wanted it, it just came as a 'package deal' in the region when India struggled for independence.
The President of Sri Lanka is riding on a high horse to build his empire at an opportune moment labeling Tamils who rebelled for equal rights. That was using the famous borrowed phrase from the WEST!!now he talks as if Sri Lanka is culturally sound enough to investigate their own war crimes?!
When politics plays among the beneficiaries of such atrocities, likes of MIA is vital. Instead of thanking MIA a few readers seem to scrutinize and ridicule her initiatives. Most celebrities play safe for personal prosperity where as MIA is using her talent & fame to expose FACTS of LIFE in Sri Lanka a third world country (Often in it's own planet). She should be commended and/or constructively critiqued.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
138.
Lisa
Stamford CT
May 31st, 2010
4:40 pm
I have always respected MIA for her music and her artistry. In a time when music was becoming staid and formulaic, I found her to stand out and satisfy a need in the industry and in my head. Now that said, MIA is M.I.A. when it comes to understanding what she stands for politically and socially. I feel duped. I thought she was smarter than this. Unfortunately, she appears as intelligent as Jessica Simpson.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
139.
Cerise
Boston, MA
May 31st, 2010
4:40 pm
Her beats are great but she's a dummy as this article clearly illustrates. Convolutedly criticizing America and Americans... "no sense of humor" etc. while living high on the hog in Brentwood--how gangsta! And her childish ways were on petulant display again when she published the author's cell phone # on her blog.
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
140.
Mobius Strip
Los Angeles
May 31st, 2010
6:40 pm
This was an excellent piece precisely *because* it revealed this talented artist to also be terribly politically naive, ignorant and disingenuous. It doesn't make her any less talented, and artists often (usually?) produce work that is a Gestalt, greater than the sum of their thoughts and ideas. It's just as valid for the writer to reveal M.I.A. as ideologically shallow as it were if she had turned out to be a nuanced and introspective thinker. She's a major - and influential - artist and worthy of a profile in the NYT.
Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers
141.
ccoocoo
oahu
May 31st, 2010
9:10 pm
Enjoyed reading about M.I.A. and have checked out her music in more depth as a result. The tone of the article was condescending. Why is the fact that she wants to find a uniform similar to those of Blackwater 'mercenaries' (the author's term) an 'oddity' when this kind of ironic symbolism is done all the time by artists?
Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers
142.
Janette
NYC
June 1st, 2010
7:46 pm
Why is she all up in about Africa. She was born in England and is of Sri Lankan descent, neither located in Africa last time I looked. She has a sharp double edge on that sword, she should be more careful. She also needs to think for a moment about the safety of those around her. Being just a little bit smart can cause unforeseen problems.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
143.
louis
Seoul, ROK
June 1st, 2010
7:47 pm
I honestly cannot stand MIA. Just mindless popstar who uses her ethnicity as a selling point.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
144.
alizarinnn
nyc
June 1st, 2010
7:47 pm
Totally agree w/ Patrick Lally above: "The Hip-Hop Hypocrisy of Chick Guevara: or, Boringly Bourgeois in Brentwood with the Bronfmans (Bang-Bang)." I couldn't have said it better, and also I agree w/ the above person "9 pages?" Obviously, this writer has a status that precludes anybody editing her rambling prose, which, after awhile, I just gave up on.
Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
145.
Jill
Denver
June 1st, 2010
7:48 pm
I don't think Lady Gaga is actually trying to be a "cultural change." She's just doing her thing, and doing it quite well, thank you. She's one of very few new artists from the past decade that I actually like. And for the love of god, Lady Gaga has ZERO in common with Abba. Please.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
146.
nynative
Virginia
June 1st, 2010
7:48 pm
I've enjoyed a few of her songs over the past two years or so, but it seems like she has the attitude of a college freshman. She seems to know everything about anything...except she has it all wrong. She won't listen to people who are clearly smarter and more versed on subjects than she is because they're part of the establishment. She lambasts America at every turn, and yet lives here and eats truffle french fries. She is the embodiment of the modern day anti-establishment fiend...a lot of rhetoric, very little fact or real action to back it up.
Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader
147.
OJ
CT
June 1st, 2010
7:48 pm
The truffle french fry comment was a low blow. Should rich people be required to give away their wealth in order to care about the non-rich? It seems like she grew-up not so well off anyway.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers
148.
lucy
brooklyn
June 1st, 2010
7:49 pm
I don't understand what this article and many of these comments expect from M.I.A. - to adopt the lifestyle of people from the developing world whose views she represents? In that case, she'd be living in a single room hovel with 5 other family members, dependent on one pail of water for the day, and squatting over an open, communal toilet. Or, maybe, the expectation is that she just settle already for the life of the average NYTimes reader? But then, she'd be living a life of luxury that even middle-class Sri Lankans only dream of.

The assumption is that eating gourmet french fries and indulging in other aspects of an elite lifestyle detracts from M.I.A.'s authenticity. In a media culture full of sound bites and personalities, it's her authenticity - as a poor person, a person of color, a person with ties to the developing world - that is supposed to give her music and her interview statements credence. By disparaging this fabled authenticity, the author of this article presumes to discredit her.

But M.I.A. doesn't make these claims to authenticity herself. She really doesn't have to, considering her background, which is as disenfranchised as it gets in the U.K. being a poor person of color for most of her life. If anything, within the article, M.I.A. revels in the perks of being a famous pop star. She's excited about attending the Met's Costume gala. She is in no way an advocate for poverty - for herself, or anyone else.
Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers



Nevermind the press- M.I.A. can speak fucking well for herself-

M.I.A. on Tavis Smiley Pt 1



M.I.A. on Tavis Smiley Pt 2





THE MUSIC (FINALLY)

M.I.A.- XXXO


M.I.A.- XXXO (Original Version)


M.I.A.- I'm A Singer (Haters)


M.I.A.- Born Free

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.



Click Here to hear the new song "Steppin' Up"

Click Here
for clips of the entire album

The New Album Cover- / \ / \ / \ Y / \

88 comments:

Jackie said...

i absolutely adore her. on so many levels.

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

It's the most devastating line in Lynn Hirschberg's explosive M.I.A. takedown: "'I kind of want to be an outsider,' she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry." But is this the first time Hirschberg has resorted to potato-based trickery in the Times? No, it is not! Dave Rawkblog notices that her profile on Megan Fox from last November also includes quotes that happened between bites of truffled French fries — and a search of the Times' archives reveals that Hirschberg has a long history of using pommes frites to her journalistic advantage.

Sean Penn (December 27, 1998):

The food arrives, and, to his dismay, they've put tomatoes on his grilled-cheese sandwich. He picks at the french fries, takes only one bite of the sandwich, but will not send it back. ''Too bad,'' he says. ''I was actually looking forward to that.''

Bob Berney (December 19, 2004):

'''Whale Rider' was my first acquisition at Newmarket,'' Berney said, as he ate a French fry.

Megan Fox (November 11, 2009):

“He’s wandering in the desert,” Fox explained, as she ate half a French fry, “and he comes across a traveling circus. I’m part of the freak show. I play a winged girl. I have bird wings that sprouted out of my back during puberty. And I’m on display. Guys pay money to look at me, and Mickey and I have a tragic love story.”

In conclusion: If you should ever find yourself the subject of a Hirschberg profile, order the baked potato. By Lane Brown, NY Magazine

Rich On Liz's Computer said...

Tim- Perfect. Thank you for adding this in...maybe I shoul do a cut an paste edit/revision?

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

certainly. excellent collection of thoughts, work, minutia etc by the way

are we a go with treetree, any other thoughts?

Rich On Liz's Computer said...

Thank you...it certainly took long enough to pull everything together. I appreciate it.

Also, yes we are ON for tree2...payday is Tuesday, thats when it gets booked!

Now the next phase is finding things to do when not at the exhibits...oh yeah, Liz and I went over the itinerary as it exists so far, and we're all totally on the same page

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

Indeed the search is on. I think there is a record store somewhere in town the size of five giant rooms

Rich said...

Tonight will (most likely) be hotel booking night...also is anyone here other than Liz & I watching the World Cup? If so, how about that Italy vs Paraguay game, huh?

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

yeah we've caught all of them so far thanks to the glory of dvr (my first dvr world cup). That was a pretty good game, both of those goals were absolutely gorgeous! Paraguay probably could have taken it if they could have avoided a few of the mistakes made (and if they werent playing against the greatest goalie in the history of the world); they really wanted it.

Rich said...

Yeah, I felt bad for Paraguay...that goal they scored was incredible. The Japan/Cameroon game was interesting...I had picked Cameroon, Liz had picked Japan, and she didnt stop GLOATING about it all night- ha ha. So far we only catch two games a night on when they re-run on ESPN classic. Brazil plays today, I know...any others to keep an eye out for? Oh, and what happens in the case of a tie? We havent figured that part out yet.

Liz said...

I didn't gloat all night! I just made it clear that victory was mine.

Liz said...

I didn't gloat all night! I just made it clear that victory was mine.

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

wins score a team two points in their standings, ties score one point.
I don't really pick teams, just like a great game. Love a great cross no matter who's doing it! N. Korea, with the lowest fifa rating of all 32 teams, is really holding their own against brazil who play like ballerinas, microscopic soccer.. minute particulars. no score at the half!!

Germany looks really good, even beyond the fact they destroyed australia on sunday 4-0. They finished third in '06 They are going to beat some odds. South Africa looked real great in their opening game. Portugal is expected to do big things but they performed flat and uninspired today, they tied Ivory Coast 0-0.

Deanna said...

Not to disrupt the football fancy, but Breathless opens tomorrow at the Music Box. When are we seeing it?

Liz the Great said...

Not this weekend, unfortunately. Rich and I are going to Coraline's baptism and we are her godparents, and Karen's doing the ceremony.... can't exactly weezle our way out of that one! Then Sunday I assume I'll have to spend the daytime with the couple that lives below us since it's Father's Day and I have to work that evening. Maybe next Friday night (like 9pm-ish show) or Saturday?

Liz the Irritated said...

What's with blogger? I fucking post a comment and it takes 5 minutes to recognize it. and the other day i posted one (about gloating) only once and it posted it twice, also after several minutes. anyone else experiencing this?

Rich The Radiant said...

Yes, I am experiencing it, too

Deanna said...

Chris is going to be out of town next weekend (he thinks, anyway), so you'd have to put up with me alone. I'm pretty sure I'm free that Saturday, but I'll have to double check.

Jackie said...

i wanna hang out! hang zone!

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

No, wait, it's three points for a win one point for a tie.

Jackie said...

so hanging out? no hanging out? yes? no? boo? yay?

Mr Bigpants Cock (of the) Walk said...

anybody watching the world cup should definitely catch the replay of the USvAlgeria game if you didnt see it this morning. quite a game!!!

Deanna said...

Well, my weekend booked up pretty fast. I would have time Saturday night, but I think my soon-to-be roommate is coming over for a bit.

Maybe they'll extend Breathless like they did Metropolis. I hope so!

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