THE MOST COMBUSTIVE song on M.I.A’s third album isn’t loud or chaotic. Built on a mildly ominous, off-kilter beat –plus an incessant shoosh like a bag of coins being shaken-it bloops along with grace of a janky Popcap game. But the sneakily titled “Lovealot” is perhaps the riskiest gambit yet from the 32-year-old artist born Maya Arulpragasm.
“Lovealot” alludes in part to the iconic, viral photo of a pistol-wielding Russian/Islamic couple-the husband, a terrorist leader killed last year by police, and the wife, a teenager who tried to avenge his death by suicide-bombing the Moscow subway (at one point the song was titled “A/bdurakh/man/ova,” after the girl’s surname). Merely 20 seconds in, M.I.A. spits, suddenly, “ Like a Taliban trucker eatin’boiled-up yucca./Get my eyes done like I’m in the burka,” and then, “Like a hand-me-down sucker throwin’ bombs out at Mecca,” and on and on. What’s more, when she purrs the line, “I really love a lot,” she stretches the last two words so they sound like “I really love Allah.” Exploring the mindset of impulsive youth caught up in Islamic terrorism – on an eccentric electro-rap track- is head-spinning project. But M.I.A embraces it fearlessly, even mischievously. “I fight the ones that fight me,” she singsongs, refusing moral judgment. It’s as if she’s imagining more than sympathizing. Give or take a few events, she could’ve been that wife in the photo.
Roasting a stage name that means missing in action (war-zone implied), the Brooklyn-based British Sri Lankan has always been mercurial, volatile, elusive. As much smash-and-grab as cut-and-paste. 2005’s Arular (title after her absent militant father) and 2007’s Kala (after her refugee single mom) burst with splashes of disorienting static. A fluorescent hall of weed smoke and cracked mirrors. Double-Dutch jumps across the borders.
THIS NEEDS TO LEAK ALREADY!