After a three-year hiatus, MIA is back with ‘AIM’, her fourth studio album. The British “gangsta shoegaze” rapper has certainly made a waves over the last few years, after she returned from an early retirement in India. From film to music to fashion she is undoubtedly a positive role model and proof that the creative mind does not necessarily need to limit itself to one art form.
MIA’s last album, ‘Matangi’ saw an introduction of a harsher edge to her musical repertoire. A far cry from her 2007 hit ‘Paper Planes’ or 2009’s twee ‘Jimmy’, the album included a much more trap orientated sound with growling bass-lines. ‘Matangi’s’ ‘Double Bubble Trouble’ for example has prominent echoes of a Major Lazer track, which has become a common theme throughout her work.
The most interesting, admirable and constantly surprising thing about MIA is her ability to blend and distort musical genres. The idea of world music as a conceptual other comparted to western music is an issue that is constantly challenged by her and her work. It’s never clear that one style, genre or culture is being referenced in her music, rather everything blends together, making MIA’s act a proverbial melting pot of sound. ‘AIM’ however actually keeps its track list fairly rigidly locked down. There are whispers of influences from Indian pop music in the backing vocals ‘Go Off’ and there are whispers of a sitar sound in ‘Ali r u ok’ but for the most park the production that backs MIA’s vocals is a harsh, trap sound with a pulsing beat. ‘Jump In’ and ‘A.M.P’ include some of these elements and may sugges that MIA has found a sound that she works best in. The deluxe version of ‘AIM’ actually includes a remix from MIA’s ex-partner Diplo, maybe suggesting that they have buried the hatchet and that they are now collaborating creatively.
MIA’s lyrics continue to be either very playful or extremely politically charged. ‘Ali r u ok’ for example appears to tell the story of an everyday relationship that is in serious need of some downtime. “All work and no play, tell them it’s your birthday”. However, later in the song there is a sudden turn towards the events in Calais and the refugee camps that still exist there. The song’s subject has to work constantly to “fix what’s broken” Again MIA triumphs with her lyrical content, relating to difficult world issues.
‘AIM’ boasts a much higher production value, but lacks in the creative and daring sound that MIA does so well. There are echoes here of other, interesting genres that she has taken an interest in, but that’s exactly what they are; echoes rather than shouts. To its credit, midway track ‘Freedun’ may include the best lyric ever rapped by anyone in hsitory: “I’m rolling in my swagger van, from The People’s Republic of Swaggastan”.
‘AIM’ is available now via Interscope Records.
This MIA article was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor