[14] M.I.A., ‘Born Free’

M.I.A.

“This is just noise.” “It’s exciting.” “It’s echoing, it feels loud.” M.I.A. is used to eliciting mixed responses, and all of these come from the same five-year-old. A five-year-old who’s just taken nearly five years to realise I’m making a note of her reactions, and so gets a whole lot more vocal about them.

It is just noise too, but I’m still blinded by hype – perhaps it’s not just hype after all? – and lap it up over and over. M.I.A. takes Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’, turns it up until it creaks at the edges, then bombasts over the top of it, ever-relevant, ever-empty. With M.I.A., What seems uncompromising on the surface is always firmly anchored by a pure pop sensibility. It was the same, really, with Suicide, whose name fascinated me when I saw it for the first time in NME’s All Time 100 Albums, published in late 1985. I’d bought the paper as a taster, a candidate to replace Smash Hits which I felt I’d outgrown (ha!) – in the end, I went for Record Mirror because Mum thought NME was a bit rude, but that list burrowed into me, a primer for a new education.

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