M.I.A.’s graphically violent new video for “Born Free” depicts a military roundup and violent slaughter of the redheaded citizens of a war-torn desert nation. On one hand, the clip is an interesting bit of political theater, forcing viewers to examine their own feelings about — and possible apathy toward — news of genocide and global violence that appears in our papers and on our TV sets and radios with numbing regularity. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be hard to view the jarring images in “Born Free” as a shortcut to invaluable Internet buzz and potential album sales that come with it. This is, after all, the same woman who just a few weeks back courted controversy by basically accusing Lady Gaga of copying her style.
The video has been yanked from YouTube — M.I.A. took to Twitter to rail against Universal Music execs for the move, then hastily rescinded her rant — but it’s streaming at her Web site miauk.com. (Contacted by EW, M.I.A.’s publicist said she is not commenting on the video at this time.) For me, the chilling silence that greets our central victim as he’s forced onto a bus — and the realization that he’s been targeted solely for his hair color — make a more effective statement than the grimly over-the-top landmine explosions that follow, but either way, it’s hard to get through this without feeling something. Check out the extremely NSFW clip for yourself, then vote in our poll below.