Release Date: Sep 9, 2016
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
M.I.A. :: AIMInterscope RecordsAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaCycles. Loops. Circles. It may not be the most fitting end point for M.I.A. but "AIM" is an essential album partially due to the situation it represents: an artist beholden to a label, shackled to a contract signed a dozen years ago ….
Last year M.I.A. unveiled “Borders”, the brilliant lead single from what she claimed may be her last studio album. It delivered a rousing social commentary on the UK’s handling of the refugee crisis - one of few to be offered by any mainstream artists. Following suit comes her fifth studio album A.I.M..
"Stars come and go," Maya Arulpragasam sings as her fifth album comes to a close, and it's another reminder of what a self-aware artist she is. On AIM, which was rumored to be her final album at the time of its release, she sounds revitalized. For someone supposedly ending her career, M.I.A. issued a lot of music in the months prior to the album's arrival.
AIM is supposedly M.I.A’s last long player, and true to form she is refusing to go quietly. No stranger to controversy – she famously replaced the “shit” lyric in Give Me All Your Luvin with a middle finger to camera in the 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show thus landing herself a $15.1 lawsuit from the NFL – the release of AIM has been a contentious one. Mathangi Arulpragasam was unceremoniously dropped from the inaugural Afropunk’s heading slot for comments she made regarding the Black Lives Matter movement that she claimed failed to acknowledge the plight of Syrians.
For a moment there, critics might have had you convinced that M.I.A. lost the plot. Pop music doesn't leave much room for nuance, so while Maya Arulpragasam was lauded for politically charged-if-simplistic lines like "Pull up the people, pull up the poor" on her first album, it was somewhat inevitable that years later, people would turn on a song like /\/\ /\ Y /\'s "The Message," which posited that one's "Handbone connects to the internet, connected to the Google, connected to the government."Time has been kind to M.I.A., though, and in 2016 — years removed from the politicized scrutiny that tends to follow politically minded musicians, and a few years after the likeable Matangi — M.I.A.'s return feels sorely needed.
In July, Mathangi Arulpragasam hit BBC Radio 1 to announce that her next album as M.I.A. may be her last. Swallowing that information is hard. If nothing else, M.I.A. spends her life in motion, and an end to her musical career would contradict that. She was born in London, raised in Sri Lanka, and ….
M.I.A.'s fifth, and perhaps last studio album is yet another titled after a name, flipped this time into an anagram with implication. Fittingly, she has taken the opportunity to flip her script, stepping down from her soapbox without going so far as to relinquish the megaphone. AIM is one of those albums released in the latter stage of a long run of notoriety, received with annexed interpretations that can overshadow the merits of its intrinsic content.
Amid the ubiquity of gadgets in our lives and the evolution of social media in the cultural landscape, a troubling question arises for artists such as M. I. A.
AIM is a first for MIA. Her fifth album, formerly titled Matahdatah, is not wall-to-wall polemic. Last year’s (excellent) single Borders remains an earworm despairing at the refugee crisis, a theme continued on Foreign Friend and Visa. But many of these songs are vignettish, poppy missives from MIA’s own country, “the People’s Republic of Swagistan” as her (very good) Zayn-featuring song – Freedun – has it.
Last year, M.I.A.'s “Borders” single arrived amid a swelling Syrian refugee crisis and a global climate that was increasingly swept up by reactionary nationalism. Through a stylized depiction of a phalanx of young migrant men scaling chain-link fences, dodging barbed wire, and standing (though sometimes sitting and lying) across refugee boats, the music video for the song gives expression to the plight of disenfranchised people fleeing warzones. Brimming with sarcastic lyrics (“Boat people/What's up with that?”) that lampoon the threat perceived by people who see “refugee” as a dirty word, “Borders” was reportedly the catalyst that M.I.A., a former refugee herself, used to write her album.
A decade-plus into her run as globalist pop's top lefty renegade, Maya Arulpragasam's radical patter is sounding a bit ho-hum ("Borders: what's up with that?" she wonders on her fifth album). But M.I.A.'s skill as a buoyant beat-rider remains intact (the glassily thumping "Visa" turns border crossing into a party), and there are moments on AIM where the political and personal blur evocatively: "Humming higher than a drone/Doves cry/Are you going home alone?" she sings against the South Asian-flavored hip-hop skitter of "Bird Song," flipping a Prince quote into a come-on perfect for an era when war can be as darkly ambiguous as desire itself. .
At the first glance, the front cover of ‘A.I.M’ is adorned with an olive-branch flanked logo, bearing the the slogan, “uniting people since 2003”. In title, it’s a straightforward enough statement, too, the precise mirror image of Maya Arulpragasam’s artistic moniker. And according to M.I.A herself, this is “my last record so I wanted it to be happy.
It’s 11 years since MIA’s debut album, Arular, was released, yet Maya Arulpragasam remains an anomaly in the music industry. In a world where even the most ardently future-facing artists are eventually pinned down and pigeonholed, she’s spent much of the last decade bulldozing her way through fads and phases, sidestepping the new boring, upstaging the queen of pop and – somehow, throughout it all – sustaining sonic relevance. Even in a year in which our most prominent artists are exploring their creative limits – Frank Ocean’s week-long carpentry live stream; Beyonce’s interpretation of the atrocities of gun crime aired on primetime TV – the Sri Lankan rapper’s originality remains unmatched.
When revisiting the culture that informed her 2005 debut album Arular, Maya Arulpragasam painted the 2000s with a rose-colored tint. “We had way better fucking music. People were having way better sex. People were eating way better food. It’s like we had progression,” she told Rolling Stone ….
M.I.A.’s work is always busy. Whether it’s that stylishly slapdash album art, those frenzied music videos or that outrageous wardrobe, barring track lists, M.I.A. doesn’t seem to believe in sequencing. Her songs don’t play; they detonate, each element individually rocketing to the finish line, competing rather than collaborating.
You can’t always pinpoint precisely where things started to go wrong for an artist. It isn’t always possible to pick out the moment at which the malaise began to set in, the stage where you realised there was huge potential being squandered. It’s easy with M.I.A. It was Maya. If that record ….
There’s an incontrovertible dissonance between M. I. A.
There’s some really embarrassing, really lazy stuff on here that sounds like total ass, but also some powerfully cool-sounding stuff that ranks with anything she’s done. On first listen the whole album sounded pretty ghastly, as though she’d finally begun the vapid trend-chasing that people have been accusing her of since Maya if not earlier. It sounded like she wasn’t even getting off on the degeneracy, either, which was concerning because degeneracy is the perverse fascination of any honest artist who makes these jumps.
It’s always best to take what M.I.A. says with a pinch of salt bigger than the NHS would recommend but if ‘AIM’ really is her last album, it feels like a fitting parting shot..
Welcome to Brexit Britain, a country where racial prejudice has been all but legitimised. It’s a regressive place where proposals to make firms list foreign workers have recently been under consideration; where last week Prime Minister Theresa May genuinely said, “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”. May’s sentiment is enraging for so many reasons, but it’s especially unpleasant because it’s a reminder of the uncomfortable feeling of being in the UK right now.
The British-Tamil singer-producer M.I.A. has existed at a few pop-cultural crossroads since bursting into the pop world with the urgent, chanting “Galang” in 2004. A savvy anticipator of horizon-dwelling pop trends, she also has a keen ability to adapt current radio mores in her own image — one that’s savvy yet passionate, worldly yet hungry, and constantly looking out for answers.
After rebelling against pop structure on 2010's MAYA and to a lesser extent 2013's Matangi, M.I.A. has released her most classically pop album since her commercial crossover, Kala, nearly a decade ago. The interviews she's done lately frame AIM as potentially her last proper LP and a concerted feel-good effort, though she's always managed turn out sticky pop tunes even in her most brazenly political and punk moments.
Colonialism and the inequity between First and Third World nations are not the usual stuff pop songs are made of, so when M.I.A. came along more than a decade ago, she had little competition. She combined her experience as a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka with experimental rap and dancehall music from London’s fringe music scenes. The British artist gained a name among her party-minded contemporaries, singing about unlikely subjects such as freedom fighters and closed borders.
Immigration, xenophobia, a refugee surge and a humanitarian crisis are roiling politics across Europe and the United States. It’s a fray that M.I.A. is eager to plunge into, once again, on her fifth studio album, “AIM.” She has said it may be her last album, though she’s not planning to stop making music. From her first single in 2003, “Galang,” Mathangi (nicknamed Maya) Arulpragasam, a.k.a.
M.I.A.’s albums have always served as her political soapboxes. Her latest—and purportedly last—AIM, is no different. M.I.A. has also been vocal about being a refugee for some three decades, as a persecuted Tamil from Sri Lanka living in the United Kingdom—a status that is particularly topical on AIM.