M.I.A. Battles New York Times Over Negative Profile

The British singer pushes back

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Shortly after the New York Times Magazine published its stinging profile of rogue pop star M.I.A., music critic Miles Raymer made an incontrovertible observation: "M.I.A. superfans will doubtless be pissed about the article." He was right. And it turns out that those who are outraged can now direct their anger straight at the source: M.I.A has just broadcast the reporter's phone number across Twitter.

The article by Times contributor Lynn Hirschberg is an 8,000+ word assault on M.I.A.'s carefully-groomed image. Since her arrival on the pop scene, M.I.A. has fashioned herself as a vocal defender of oppressed minorities--particularly the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Hirschberg pairs M.I.A.'s reading of the Sri Lankan conflict with an expert on the subject with the clear intention of humbling the pop star.

Around the Web, bloggers are commenting on both Hirschberg's piece and M.I.A.'s combative response to it:

  • M.I.A.'s Reaction Was Childish, writes Maura Johnston at The Awl: "This seems like a bit of a petulant stunt -- not to mention something of a tacit admission that the piece maybe cut too close to the bone, no?"

  • A Very Unflattering Profile, writes the music blog Mog: "She comes off looking terrible in every sense of the word. While it's debatable that the Times is distorting both truth and context, at least some of what's reported is completely real and unfiltered."

  • Finally, a Reporter with Gumption! praises Miles Raymer at The Chicago Reader: "Most writers who've profiled M.I.A. in the past have been willing to see her as she wants to be seen. Hirschberg, though, not only notes the friction between M.I.A.'s message and her actions... but also enlists an expert in Sri Lankan politics to explain how poorly she understands the situation there"

  • M.I.A.'s Ex-Boyfriend Really Drops the Ball, writes Jessica Suarez at Stereogum: "Neither the writer nor the Sri Lankan political experts that she calls in are as devastating to M.I.A.'s persona as M.I.A.'s ex-boyfriend and current musical partner Diplo, who comments on a variety of topics, from M.I.A.'s art-making and 'whole terrorism gimmick,' to her fiance Ben Brewer ('Her boyfriend really hates me'). Though you might wonder if they'll still work together after this article, Diplo seems to know he's safe, if only because he's useful: 'Even if she hates my guts, she knows that we can do crazy stuff together.'"

  • This Cuts Deep, writes Lane Brown at New York magazine: "Let us begin by saying we like M.I.A. and we're very much looking forward to her new album, ///Y/, out next month. But that doesn't mean we didn't find Lynn Hirschberg's ...profile... a pretty great read. In the piece, M.I.A. smack-talks Lady Gaga again, whom she's called out before for being style over substance. But is superficially branding oneself as a political radical really any less silly than wearing a shoe for a hat?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.