M.I.A. Makes a Mess of Letterman's Stage

M.I.A.'s new album, Maya (which came out on Tuesday), has divided fans. Some people like the abrasive sounds made by one of our most significant artists (then again, those fans would probably follow her anywhere). Others can't stand it (then again, those are the people who probably picked up Kala after "Paper Planes" became a hit).

I'm somewhere in between, leaning toward loving it. I've always gravitated more to her music (beat-tastic and often revolutionary) than to her lyrics (politically incendiary and kinda confrontational for the sake of being confrontational), and Maya is loaded with some great sounds.

But her performance on Late Show With David Letterman last night was kinda messy. She played "Born Free" with a matching group of backing singers and dancers. She didn't crack a smile once (not that she was expected to — it's a pretty heavy song), not even when Letterman made a joke about everyone dressing the same. And it just sounded like a blast of noise with some sloganeering layered on top.

Still, M.I.A. remains one of our most vital artists. And Maya is definitely worth hearing. I'm just starting to wonder if she's taking some of this a little too far. The Letterman appearance wasn't at all enjoyable, but it was confrontational. Shouldn't our pop stars (yeah, M.I.A. is sort of a pop star) find some middle ground?

What do you think? —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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