“Live fast, die young/ Bad girls do it well,” Maya Arulpragasam chants on the intro to her latest single. Given that it’s a line loaded with the kind of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll fluff that most of today’s chart huggers are spouting, it was probably the last thing we expected to hear from the politically-minded Sri Lankan. Then again, it’s also a line that few could pull off so spectacularly.
The song is called Bad Girls, and it definitely marks a fitting return to the music scene for M.I.A. To describe the video in one sentence, I’d say: The Fast and the Furious, Middle Eastern edition. The central feeling of this video is that M.I.A brought drift racing to the streets of Morocco. You have your typical M.I.A lyrics, spit over a beat that is as much Dr. Dre is at is any Bollywood movie. It feels a third world like and it fits incredibly well with the vibe of the video. While there is no doubt she plays up the “third world” angle of her writing and lyrics, who can argue with her? It’s original and it accentuates her image nicely. Some people have issues with it, but it is a character she plays.
While this may not seem important, it really is because in this video, M.I.A dons various different articles of religious clothing, while dancing around a decidedly Middle Eastern backdrop of oil burning in the desert. In a matter of three minutes, she can be seen wearing an Arabian head and face scarf, a black hat with gold chains emulating the hair curls of Hasidic Jewish men and in typical M.I.A. fashion, a hoodie and glasses and some animal print yoga pants. While some may get annoyed at the religious imagery and the strong Middle Eastern vibe of the video, there is no need to. This is what she has always done. Her other big singles all had similar imagery and lyrics. If it p***** you off, ignore it, but you will be missing a fun track from a fun woman who is not afraid to ruffle some feathers to get her point across.
It’s been a while since she stepped up to the role of hustlers – anyone remember ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘XXXO’? – but ‘Bad Girls’ serves as a timely reminder that she can cook up a chart-friendly hit when and if she so chooses. “My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the radio,” she brags nonchalantly over a Middle Eastern hip-hop beat courtesy of Britney hit maker Danja. Good stuff.