A couple weeks back, M.I.A. debuted a new track on BBC Radio 1, “Bring the Noize,” from her new LP, which was due in April but keeps being shifted.
The song has her spitting hard, with a singsong chorus of “Bring the noize/ When we run up on them,” the word “freedom” spread over throughout. It fades with a sweetly lilting verse of Janis Joplin’s antihero anthem, “Me and Bobby McGee”: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” over which M.I.A. raps the word “choose.” She doesn’t believe that baloney about freedom. No one does, unless you don’t have it.
According to the BBC, her label handed back the record for being “too positive.” M.I.A. made her name as a fighter, making songs for people on the outside. (Her first 11 years were in Sri Lanka, during the country’s civil war.) Hers is authentic resistance music.
This time last week, I was listening to Janis on repeat, bracing myself for the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions. The next day, I knew I’d been kidding myself. Freedom means having something tangible: It means not being punished for living authentically. This is an anthem for right now, when we need one the most — not a “nice” commodity.