Track Review: M.I.A. “20 Dollar”


    Though my personal geek button is more savagely pushed by the Modern Lovers appropriation on “Bamboo Banga,” I suspect the Pixies referencing “20 Dollar” will be the one to raise hipster doting on Maya Arulpragasam to dangerous levels. Before this Kala track segues into the immortal words of Black Francis, however, it’s rather grim. It’s certainly not of a piece with the frantic dance floor offerings that we’ve heard from the album so far. With a lumbering organ throb and slow ragged beats, our gal wants to “talk about moi.” The moi in question turns out to be a resident of an African shantytown, whose inhabitants “still like T.I.” and “still look fly,” despite a completely untenable environment. The context to which the alt rock classic in question is introduced is a mile worse than “out in the water, still swimming.”
    In Pixies’ version of “Where is My Mind?” Black Francis’ magnetic vocal couldn’t help but become anthemic, a celebration of confusion. M.I.A.’s drawn out, dub influenced delivery recasts the chorus as legitimately harrowing. She’s slightly off the brutal beat, and completely leaves the once and future sing along to vocodered abstractions. It’s the sound of someone for whom the world has completely stopped making sense, brought into sharp focus by a songwriter whose pop culture dragnet seems increasingly omnivorous.