mon 02/08/2021

CD: M I A - AIM | reviews, news & interviews

CD: M.I.A. - AIM

CD: M.I.A. - AIM

The geopolitically polemical singer returns, possibly for the last time

Farewell tour? M.I.A.'s fifth album 'AIM'

Back in February, M.I.A. released the first single “Borders” from this her fifth and allegedly last album, taking a powerful aim at the refugee crisis engulfing the world. The video was as stark and simple as the track, with still, almost painterly long shots of M.I.A. sat among a boatful of motionless migrants or surrounded by bodies clinging onto barbed wire fences, staring with her trademark fierce poker face down the eye of the camera.

This wasn’t new territory for the always geopolitically polemical singer, herself a child refugee from the civil war in Sri Lanka, and as she said on Twitter when the song was released: “The world I talked about 10 years ago is still the same. That’s why it’s hard for me to say it again on a new LP.”

'AIM' is much more relaxed and less combativeSince her one big hit, 2008’s “Paper Planes,” which sold four million copies in the US, Maya Arulpragasam’s career has seemed to be on course for diminishing returns. After a downbeat third album, Maya, her fourth, 2013’s Matangi, was almost exhaustingly frenetic, and its release was overshadowed by her legal battles with everyone from the US National Football League after she flicked a ‘V’ at cameras during her 2012 performance with Madonna, to a custody battle with the father of her son.

AIM, originally titled Matahdatah, appeared to be going down the same bumpy road, with M.I.A. threatening to leak the album unless the record label put it out while also saying it might be her last record. But though the politics are still there very much in force, the tone of AIM is much more relaxed and less combative than some of her back catalogue.

Teen pop dream du jour, Zayn Malik, turns up softly warbling on “Freedun”, celestial sunlight bouncing around the glittering synths. “Foreign Friend” and “Finally” share a similarly upbeat, insouciant pop bounce that either Lily Allen or Grimes could have put their names to. Skrillex dials down his demonic dynamics on “Go Off”, and a reconciliation with former collaborator Diplo turns up one of the strongest songs, the slinky, spaghetti western dancehall stew “Bird Song”.

There’s nothing new in M.I.A.’s armoury here if this is her farewell, bar a more centered, less scattergun lyrical and rhythmic roll. She still sounds like a lone bird, sometimes charming, sometimes irritating, but with a clever magpie’s ear for a killer global groove. There are still too few like her with a personal zeal to champion the plight of the dispossessed along with a smiling refusal to sing like the caged, exotic bird pop music has always threatened to make her.  

She still sounds like a lone bird, sometimes charming, sometimes irritating, but with a clever magpie’s ear for a killer global groove


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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