Almost immediately after M.I.A.’s graphic new video for “Born Free” arrived this morning, it was yanked from YouTube for its stark violence, which includes a child being shot in the head at point-blank range and another youngster being obliterated by a land mine. The explicit version of the clip, which is still streaming on M.I.A.’s MIAUK.com website, is likely the most disturbing video you’ll see all year: a nearly nine-minute-long comment on military violence, discrimination and how the media depicts shocking imagery. The song is slated to appear on the singer-rapper’s as-yet-untitled June album.
As “Born Free” — M.I.A.’s take on Suicide’s classic “Ghost Rider” — pounds in the background like an aural assault, the video depicts a SWAT unit tearing apart an apartment complex and beating its tenants in search of an unknown perpetrator, who turns out to be a redheaded young man. Masked, heavily armed military men force him into a truck holding more redheads and drive them to a remote desert holding station, where they proceed to murder the outcasts.
“Born Free” was directed by filmmaker Romain Gavras, who previously helmed the ultraviolent video for Justice’s “Stress.” Gavras is also the son of Costa-Gavras, the acclaimed director of films including Z and Missing, which were controversial for their scathing and allegorical look into the politics of the late Sixties and early Eighties, respectively. “Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE,” read the opening credits of Costa-Gavras’ Z, and Gavras’ vision in “Born Free” aligns itself heavily with that mantra. By presenting an unflinching account of the U.S.’ shakedown of one group, Gavras and M.I.A. draw potent comparisons to many of the U.S. government’s questionable decisions in the past decade, from the treatment of terror suspects to our role in the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan to the recent immigration laws passed in Arizona.
After announcing the premiere of the “Born Free” video earlier today via a tweet, the Sri Lankan MC took over Pitchfork’s Twitter, where she has revealed the potential 10-song track list for her upcoming album.
Check out Rolling Stone‘s 40 Reasons to Get Excited About Music in our current issue for more on M.I.A.’s new disc.
M.I.A.’s Untitled Album’s Potential Track List:
1. “The Message”
2. “Born Free”
3. “Meds and Feds”
6. “It Is What It Is”
8. “Tell Me Why”
9. “Story Told”