So, how’s M.I.A.’s post–Lynn Hirschberg image-rehabilitation campaign going? It got off to a rocky start last week when she petulantly tweeted Hirschberg’s phone number, but then picked up a bit when it was revealed that truffle fries — the eating of which was Hirschberg’s boldest anti-M.I.A. weapon — were neither high-class nor particularly tasty. Then, over the weekend, the latest startling development: M.I.A. released audio clips from the interview sessions that indicate Hirschberg was the one that ordered the French fries. The brashest move, however, was M.I.A. releasing a new song featuring the lyrics, “Why the hell would journalists be thick as shit/'Cause lies equals power equals politics.” The results on how that one played as far as public perception goes aren’t quite in, but in the meantime, a sharp M.I.A. defense from music writer Mike Barthel — “MIA seems interesting to me not so much as a conveyor of rigorously conceived political treatises and moral clarity, but as the vessel for a particular viewpoint that’s largely absent from US culture,” and so on — has been making the rounds.
Which brings us up to speed and to the recently unveiled album cover for M.I.A.’s latest. If it looks familiar, that’s because most of the image was used in a recent billboard campaign tangentially related to the British election. The word “respect” has been stripped out, but M.I.A.’s face is again blocked out by YouTube control bars. So, yes, she’s still mad YouTube censored her with the “Born Free” video. But seeing as she got to use it as inspiration for her album cover, maybe we can call it a wash?