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Snap Judgment: M.I.A. drops new track, "Born Free" (and gets Suicide paid)

April 23, 2010 |  1:43 pm

Anyone who sniveled at M.I.A. for biting the better part of "Straight To Hell" for her biggest hit to date should probably be sitting down for new her single. "Born Free" consists of this, and this alone: some trashy drum samples, a fuzzed out airhorn, and the almost the entirety of Suicide's "Ghost Rider. " Somewhere Alan Vega and Martin Rev just decided to treat themselves to cochlear implants from the royalties.

M.I.A.'s cred-building sample savvy here is uncontestable, and the two bands share an ear for deadpanning over gangrenous synths and cheap drum machines. But as a song, "Born Free" feels like the teaser it is. It's one good idea tossed off with zero ambition toward structure or development, more like intriguing mixtape fodder than any statement of purpose for her forthcoming record. M.I.A. sounds great, though, echoed out to oblivion while repurposing lyrical punk bromides from the Misfits and idle rap boasts like "I don't want to talk about money, 'cause I got it."

M.I.A.'s been riding hard for her new proteges Sleigh Bells lately, and this cut suggests she's been paying attention to their gained-out production style and boundless yet directionless energy. A whole album of this would be taxing, and could play against M.I.A.'s strengths in sashaying all over daffy backbeats. As four minutes of vinegary circle-pit fodder, however, it'll do kindly. But let this also be an occasion to go shovel a bunch of your money at Suicide, who deserve it and hopefully just won a few new fans here.

-- August Brown