In the days following its release in April, practically everyone weighed in on M.I.A.'s "Born Free" video, calling it everything from "unflinchingly, unapologetically real" to "exploitive and hollow." It was polarizing, to be sure, but that was sort of the point: "Born Free" was clearly designed to elicit a response.
But through it all, M.I.A. herself kept quiet about the video. Until Monday, when MTV News sat down with her to talk about a host of topics, including her new album, /\/\/\Y/\ (due July 13), and the maelstrom of controversy created by "Born Free." To hear her tell it, the reaction to the video wasn't as much hurtful as it was fascinating.
"It was just interesting at the time, for me, to see how the Internet works. Because I tweeted [a video purportedly showing the execution of Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka] a couple months before, and nobody really gave a sh--," M.I.A. said. "And when there's tomato ketchup and fake blood, people are like, 'Oh my God, this is shocking!' And it's like, 'It's ketchup!' [So] I think it's interesting how we react to fiction and how we react to realism on the Internet."
Though her critics may have slammed the "Born Free" video, M.I.A. said that in the two months since it was released, the clip has only become more important. In fact, with its scenes of violence against minorities (in the video's case, redheads) and its dark, paranoid tone, one might argue that it's downright prescient.
"Thinking about 'Born Free,' what, a month on, is interesting because, last week, I guess in [Texas], they shot the Mexican kid," she said, referring to the 15-year-old shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent earlier this month. "Or, think about the boat that went into [Gaza] with all the activists. ... Since the video came out, there's been events.
"Or even yesterday, the story about the president being able to shut the Internet down with one button, the 'kill switch,' or whatever, which is all really interesting," she added, talking about a bill being proposed that would allow the U.S. government greater control in the face of a major cyber-attack. (Bill co-sponsor Sen. Joseph Lieberman has said the term "kill switch" is an exaggeration.)
"This is not some weird, crazy conspiracy theory, this is mainstream media," M.I.A. argued. "I wish I was talking about way more underground theories, but [I'm] not, this is just me digesting what I see in the mainstream."
Has a video or song ever opened your eyes about real-world events? Share your thoughts in the comments.