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Apparently, calling an M.I.A. video “controversial” is like calling the Pope “Catholic.” No duh! M.I.A. (nee: Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam) is a British songwriter, record producer, singer, rapper, fashion designer, visual artist, political activist, and artist of Sri Lankan origin. He’s also an aficionado of the Tamil Tigers, as well as their separatists efforts to create a Free Tamil. She made it onto the list of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, for her “global influence across many genres”. Funny I’ve never heard of her before now.

Anywho, the other day, M.I.A. was likely sitting around wondering what she could do to get on the radar of most of the free world, when she came up with this brilliant idea: create a music video with graphically violent images. Images so graphic, in fact, that YouTube would be forced to ban the video outright.

Then, she must have figured, it would give her an opportunity to rail against the Man, claim she was a victim of artistic censorship and political persecution (read: “create controversy by behaving badly to pump up the P.R. and sell a lot of music to people who Want To Look Like They Care About The World).

Looks like it worked, too. The lamestream media is all abuzz about M.i.A. and her contraband video. (“ContraBand” – now there’s a name for a left-wing music group, no?) Of course, the controversy might die down if you can’t actually see the video for yourself. So now somebody else is hosting it for her. You can see it here:

Frankly, i’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I think if it’s news and involves guns, TTAG has gotta cover it. On the other hand, this is, to me anyway, a transparent attempt to curry publicity, ignite controversy, and shamelessly self-promote what appears to be a talentless hack sell her wares to people that don’t know the difference between a genuine artistic statement and shameless self-aggrandizement.

You be the judge.

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  1. Not sure what her commentary was. I’m sure that the song wasn’t my style. Couldn’t understand a damn thing she was saying.

    Video was well made though, from a technical standpoint.

  2. I saw it before it was yanked. The director, Romain Gavras, is the son of Constantinos Costa-Gavras, who directed Z, Missing, and a lot of other politically-charged films. I thought the point was pretty obvious. This sort of thing is actually happening, now – but not usually to ginger-haired white kids. And as far as the violence, did anyone see The Last King of Scotland?

    • Is it more effective to show what is really happening or is it more effective to show a police SWAT team with American flags on their shoulders gathering up white kids?

      Personally, I think if you're trying to make commentary on the situation in another country as being horrible, don't add that layer of on top of it, which blurs the issue. It came across to me as sort of a demonization of American Police.

      • When was the last time anyone paid this sort of attention to a video of Janjaweed raping and slashing women and girls?

  3. According to the Guardian, the video is a teaser:

    Though it is absolutely par for the course that MIA would put out this kind of controversial material, the track is by far the best thing about the video. It's a boost for director Romain Gavras, son of political filmmaker Constantinos, but a convenient "appetiser" for his forthcoming Redheads – a feature-length film on the same themes as the Born Free video.

    Whatever you think of the video (I found it rather lo-fi in a :"ketchuppy" kind of way) it's hard not to respect MIA for refusing to compromise as she has become more mainstream. Her lyrics have talked explicitly about the treatment of Sri Lankan Tamils, and her father's spell as a political activist once stopped her being granted a US visa.


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