It is really… not what you'd expect. While "XXXO" is technically the first single of her newest album, /\/\/\Y/\ (or Maya, for those less inclined to indulge), "Born Free" was the first to get a video. And a rather infamous one at that: YouTube banned the video — set in a world where gingers are rounded up and shot — for its graphic violence, a move which some say M.I.A. not only anticipated, but actually was hoping for.
So, given that video, and her… somewhat abrasive demeanor in general lately, what kind of in-your-face, gratuitously shocking piece of agit-pop could we except? If you said "think Blingees", then you're right!
Say what you will about M.I.A., but I have to say that she's doing some stuff right now that I really do enjoy. Once you get past the truffle fries, and tweeting people's phone numbers, and her streak of poor live shows, I still think there's something worthwhile to this most recent album/incarnation/phase.
Specifically, I'm digging the sort of refracted, "the Internet threw up" aesthetic she's been using in the album art. M.I.A. has often claimed that she tries to speak for people who have no voice in Western culture (in her own words: "I put people on the map who've never seen a map"), and whether she does that successfully (or at all, or if that's something she can even do), it makes sense that she would focus so much on the Internet. Especially those services — YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr — that allow people from anywhere with a modem to interact in the same space. The Internet may not save the world, but it is something of a great equalizer, especially for young people. And this crazy mess of play bars and error messages and profile photos expresses that point, while similarly underscoring the fact that, even for those of us who use the Internet all the time, it's still a big wilderness in which we sometimes have no idea what's going on.
And while maybe I'm reading too much into all of this, I certainly think M.I.A.'s output deserves more dissection than someone like Ke$ha's.
Alternate theory: BLINGEES.