The message from M.I.A. and director Romain Gavras in the short film for “Born Free” is a direct one: How would you feel if atrocities committed American armed forces in the Middle East were carried out against a nation of redheads and not a nation of Arabs? We’d throw up our KFC Double-Down dinners, of course. The ultra-violence captured here by Garvas only adds to that greasy, uneasy feeling you have in your stomach.
Similarly, there’s little subtlety to be had in “Born Free,” the song. Like her biggest single to date, “Paper Planes,” M.I.A. once again liberally samples from our classic punk rock canon. With “Paper Planes” it was The Clash’s “Straight to Hell.” Here, it’s Suicide’s “Ghost Rider.”
Normally, this would be reason to celebrate. Hey, a modern artist is introducing a new generation to the music which fueled the punk rock revolution. Well done, Ms. Modern Artist. However, with M.I.A.’s clunky, unimaginative sampling techniques, other questions arise, like, how much of “Born Free” can be considered the original work of an artist? When you consider the package — The song, the short, the message, then, yes, “Born Free,” is a relevant work of art separate from the original.
However, when you avert your eyes from the ultra-violence, and coax that Double-Down back where it belongs, “Born Free,” sounds like nothing more than some gal following her own script on punk rock karaoke night. It hardly merits the wall-to-wall internet coverage it’s currently receiving. If anything, “Born Free” serves as an impetus to hop on the youtube express and check out old Suicide clips, not the artist who sampled them.
VIDEO: M.I.A. – Born Free (Really, Really NSFW)