MIA, ‘Bad Girls’ – First Listen

Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.” It sounds like a line from the Lana Del Rey album, but it’s actually the hook on the new M.I.A. single.

Well, I say “new”. ‘Bad Girls’ actually first appeared on the Vicki Leekx mixtape, released as a freebie on the very last day of 2010. The version that’s out this week, all official like, isn’t massively different. It’s longer and properly shaped – obvs, being a standalone song now – and perhaps a bit more polished. It’s kind of like the original after a fancy French manicure.


It’s also a wriggly little bitch of an earworm. Produced by Danja, the knob-twiddler who goaded Britney into demanding more back in 2007, ‘Bad Girls’ is a midtempo R&B jam with a whiff of the Middle East to it and one of those boffo pop choruses that M.I.A. can toss off when she wants to. You remember ‘XXXO’, right?


The seriousface brigade may take issue with its lyrics, which are approximately as politically-minded as an episode of Peppa Pig. M.I.A.’s mission here is simple: to remind the world that there’s more than one bad bitch that came from Sri Lanka. And this one likes to drive. “My chain hits my chest when I’m bangin’ on the dashboard”, she brags on the verses, instantly making me wish I owned a string of neck-bling, the kind of speaker system one might have called “phat” back in the Ali G days, and, oh yeah, a car.

OK, so ‘Bad Girls’ isn’t M.I.A.’s most visceral or inventive single. But in its way, it’s one of her canniest. Think about it – it’s catchy as crabs, it’s packed with I’m-back-but-of-course-I-never-went-away attitude, and it’s out the same week as she guests on the new Madonna smash and (hopefully) performs with the Queen of Pop at the Super Bowl.

Some of Madge’s infamous business savvy has clearly rubbed off on her.