M.I.A.: The Billboard Cover Story

During "Space," the dreamy future-shock ballad that closes her upcoming third album, M.I.A. repeatedly coos, "My lines are down/You can't call me," over a gently percolating beat that sounds like a Sega Genesis practicing its pillow talk. It's just one of the many observations on our data-drenched Infotainment Age that crop up throughout "/\/\ /\ Y /\," a stunning, more-or-less self-titled effort from the 34-year-old Sri Lankan native born Maya Arulpragasam. Yet in a telephone interview with Billboard last week, the lyric is taking on another, more literal meaning, as M.I.A. travels on a Eurostar train from Brussels to London during a hectic round of European promotion. Namely, her cell phone keeps dropping our call whenever her train enters a tunnel.