M.I.A. goes M.I.A.
Josh Batista | Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Say R.I.P. to M.I.A.’s music career.
M.I.A.’s fifth studio album “A.I.M.” disappoints. An inspiring figure and voice for our generation, M.I.A. lets her fan base down with this mediocre project. Touted as her last studio album, M.I.A. has managed to go out with the faintest of blasts: repetitive beats, poor writing and no creative boundaries are all the project has to offer. With big names like Blaqstarr, Diplo and Skrillex, it was easy to get excited for this album. However, the obnoxious beats clash with M.I.A’s heavily modified voice throughout the work.
In “Swords,” the beat opens with loops of very artificial “clashing swords” sound bites and progresses into a generic, subpar EDM track. It’s easy to hear where M.I.A tried to fit in the EDM scene, but her signature Bollywood sound rubs against most of the instrumentals. Most instrumentals sound like M.I.A. picked them blindly from a bag of Skrillex and Diplo throwaways.
“Freedun” is an example of M.I.A.’s lazy writing throughout the album: “Bass bass, bass bass / I’m a swagger man / Rolling in my swagger van / From the People’s Republic Of Swaggerstan.” It is hard to make out anything of importance from this mess — there is no focus and no imagery. And this is representative of the entire album as a whole. Sure, she is having fun, but at the cost of the progressive, activist persona that she has effectively perpetuated in her previous albums. It is easy to see why so few of the album’s lyrics have annotations on Genius, they need no interpretation. Her lyrics lack substance.
In “Foreign Friend” she sings, “Gonna be your best friend / Gonna make that shit trend / I’m gonna be your foreign friend all the way to the end.” Beyond the uninspired lyrics, she sings with a lazy tone and is backed by instrumental sounds evoking a mediocre southern-influenced trap beat. The song has an overall tone of resentment, but it is hard to decipher why. M.I.A. doesn’t act on its potential to say something powerful about xenophobia and foreign policy in the world.
In arguably her most politically charged track on the album, “Borders,” M.I.A. sings in a heavily autotuned voice: “Borders (What’s up with that?) / Politics (What’s up with that?) / Police shots (What’s up with that?) / Identities (What’s up with that?) … ” You get the idea. She continues to make easy rhymes throughout and lacks confidence in delivery.
This project required stamina to get through. With minimal evolution throughout each track and no overarching theme, it is hard to believe that this album took two years to develop.
I will, however, compliment M.I.A. for sticking with her signature sound. You can listen to any track on the project at random and recognize that it is M.I.A. She successfully continued transitioning into futuristic beats, but at the expense of her lyricism. Do yourself a favor and don’t listen. Instead, put on her previous works and reminisce on the glorious activist progressive artist that was M.I.A.
Favorite Tracks: “Go Off”
If You Like: Major Lazer, Santigold, Azealia Banks