M.I.A.: "XXXO"

With its ultraviolent video and synth-punk harshness, the Sri Lankan antidiva's most recent offering, "Born Free," suggested that her forthcoming third disc might be aimed at only her fringiest fans. So it's a big relief that the album's first official single is a frisky slice of dance heaven, with M.I.A. setting aside radical chic for a fiendishly sexy disco jam. Over sinewy and atmospheric future-techno throb from Baltimore producer Blaqstarr, M.I.A. drops uncharacteristically flirty lines like "I can be the actress/You be Tarantino" and "A knock at the door and then we hit the floor." But when M.I.A. gets to the chorus, she adopts a thin, high-pitched wail, tingeing the foxy track with ambivalence and a hint of discord. "You want me be somebody who I'm really not," she says. Is she speaking to some segment of her audience? Hard to say, but it's clear that even when M.I.A. heads into Fergie country, she does it on her own idiosyncratic terms.