Born Free

Songfacts®:

  • This bombastic New Punk track was written and produced by British alternative dance musician Maya Arulpragasam, who records under the name of M.I.A. The song was created in collaboration with her production partners Diplo and Switch, and American indie rock guitarist John Hill. Igor Cavalera, once of Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura, played the drums. A blog for Diplo's Mad Decent label declared: "It was a royal mess of all our good buds- Switch, John Hill, and Diplo plus Iggor Cavalera (1/2 Mixhell, ex-Sepultura)! All those dudes in a room, a generous sample of Suicide, sick sick drumming from Iggor (and here's another tidbit for u - it was recorded on POPO's s--tty ass drumset at the mausoleum!) - and you got it."
  • This samples "Ghost Rider," which is a 1977 song by the synthpunk band Suicide. The Suicide song itself was named after the Ghost Rider Marvel antihero comics.
  • A short film featuring the song, which doubles as its music video, was directed by Frenchman Romain Gavras, the son of film director Costa-Gavras whose credits include Z and Missing. The nine-minute epic features nudity, graphic violence and a plot where red-haired teenagers are rounded up into an armour-protected van, driven to the desert, treated brutally, and forced to run across a live minefield. Unsurprisingly it has proved controversial and although the clip initially appeared on YouTube, it was later hidden by the site's staff after enough viewers flagged the clip for objectionable content.
    During the course of events a child is shown shot through the head.

    Twelve-year-old Ian Hamrick, who played the redheaded adolescent, told TMZ he was aware of the gruesome storyline, but he felt it made a powerful statement. "I think she was trying to show violence to end violence," Hamrick told the site. "The video is definitely not for kids - I haven't even seen the full video myself - but for all the adults and people in different countries who are doing that in real life... doing the genocides to whatever: Italians, Africans, wherever it's from, it's still genocide. So it's showing violence to end violence."
  • In an article with The New York Times magazine, M.I.A. admitted the video was inspired by a Gaga clip: "With our video, we were really copying 'Telephone,' " M.I.A. said. "Both our videos are road movies. We kill people, and they kill people. They start out in a prison, and we start out in a squat, hunting people down."
  • Gavras told The NME May 29, 2010 that rather than the concept of ginger genocide being cooked up, the idea came partly because he was already making a feature film, Redheads, about ostracized ginger people. "We talked at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles," he explained. "I had a double cheeseburger. It's not sexy when you tell the details, but it just came through discussions of stuff she told me and stuff I told her about my film."
  • Switch told Billboard magazine how they recorded MAYA: "We really don't have any kind of formula. All the records come around by watching something on YouTube and an idea comes, or by going out to the clubs or something. We basically just mess around till something makes us excited enough for her to jump on the mic. We'll have her run on the track for 10 or 15 minutes, then I'll come and edit the bits and bobs she likes together. Then we'll flip it, reverse it, turn it backward and build a song from there."
  • When M.I.A. performed this song on Late Night with David Letterman, she was accompanied by nine doppelgangers plus Suicide co-founder Martin Rev. As M.I.A. shouted and danced, her nine look-a-likes mimicked her every move. Letterman's response at the end? "Happy Halloween!"
  • The idea for the video came about after MIA began ribbing Diplo about his naturally red hair. Roman Gavras and MIA made it with their own money, without telling her record label, XL.
  • The single artwork depicts a still from a video that allegedly shows the extra-judicial killing of fighters by Sri Lankan soldiers in 2009. "I tweeted a video purportedly showing the execution of Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka a couple of months before, and nobody really gave a s--t," MIA complained.

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