Image Credit: CBS/John Paul Filo/LandovLast night, M.I.A. dropped by CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman to promote her new album, ///Y/. She announced the performance on Twitter with typical caustic sarcasm: “whoring myself on letterman tonite americca, see u there!” Okay then! The song she chose was thuddingly confrontational single “Born Free.” In place of the hair-color death squads of that song’s video, M.I.A. brought along a troop of backup dancers styled more or less exactly like her.
///Y/ is surely the year’s most divisive major-label release. I happen to be one of those people who love 2005’s Arular and (much of) 2007’s Kala but find this follow-up to be a bit of a disaster. But I tried to approach her Late Show performance with an open mind. Image-wise, I think it was a success. The army of lookalikes was a well-executed nod to the increasingly common critique that she’s some sort of superficial phony, as Stereogum has noted. If she had used this setup for an older song like “Pull Up the People” or “Paper Planes,” I probably would have enjoyed it. Yet “Born Free” felt frankly interminable to me as a piece of live music. M.I.A. remains brilliant at making the audience pay attention to her. When it’s for a half-baked blast of empty aggression like this, I start wondering why I bothered.
But maybe you disagree? Check out M.I.A.’s Letterman performance after the jump (clip via Stereogum) and let us know what you think.
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix: