M.I.A.: Hit and miss

After finding mainstream success with her "Paper Planes," a heavily licensed, Clash-sampling cut that won the border-hopping electronic artist a Grammy nomination, M.I.A. seemed poised for superstardom with her "Maya." That hasn't quite panned out, as the first glimpse of the album, "Born Free," was far more punk than dance and came with a controversial, extremely violent video. Soon after, the New York Times painted a not-so-flattering picture of the artist, contrasting her posh life with her political ideals, and M.I.A. responded by posting the reporter's phone number online. All this overshadowed the release, which in five weeks has fallen out of the top 100 and doesn't look likely to cross the 100,000 sales mark anytime soon. A shame, as The Times' Ann Powers wrote, "It feels like a serious artist's sometimes tentative but very promising step toward a broader vision of herself. In its 12 tracks, M.I.A. explores both what it means to serve as a sexual/romantic ideal in the Beyoncé way and what happens when a self-consciously political artist like herself confronts the sentimental streak deep within." -- Todd Martens
Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images
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