M.I.A. has a lot of ideas on fifth album A.I.M.
The release of M.I.A.’s new album A.I.M. was definitely not without any controversy. She was dropped from a festival because of some quotes about other artists and their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement and she threatened to leak her album herself. Obviously she did not do it in the end and waited until the release date to share her sound, message and hooks with the world. Following a long string of promo singles we finally get to hear her full fifth album AIM. It is a lengthy body of work that sometimes misses focus and cohesion, but delivers enough interesting moments to entertain from start to finish.
M.I.A. made quite the statement with the release of the lead single and video ‘Borders’. She was one of the few artists openly criticizing the way the world handled the refugee crisis, ridiculing the hashtag culture we live in online by ironically using terms like ‘bein’ bae’ and ‘slayin’ it’ only to conclude in the last part: “Egos (What’s up with that?), your values (What’s up with that?), your beliefs (What’s up with that?)”. It’s easily one of the highlights of AIM with a clear hook, razor-sharp lyrics and a more than straightfoward delivery.
The refugee crisis is an ongoing theme that comes back throughout the whole album (it’s very much relatable to her as she had to flee with her family from Sri Lanka when she was younger), for example on track like ‘Ali R U OK’, ‘Visa’ and the stunning ‘Foreign Friend’, a collaboration with Dexta Daps. “Where we come from, we get out our tent. Then we climb over the fence. We don’t wanna cause an offence. Then we get a Benz, flat screen tv, then we pay rent. Then we think we made it. Then we be your foreign friend”, she raps while Daps delivers a powerful and soulful vocal hook in the chorus. ‘Visa’ however is set on the Mexican border and probably contains M.I.A.’s most enjoyable delivery of the whole album with an almost caricatural effect.
Sonically she shines on both versions of ‘Bird Song’, making smart use of a sample from Tamil movie Ori Kili Uruguthu. This marks M.I.A.’s absolutely unique vision. There is no other artist out there in the field that could have pulled a song like this off. She mixes hiphop, dancehall, electro and pop with world music effortlessly. The most poppy moment of the record is delivered by Zayn, who sings the beautiful soaring chorus of ‘Freedun’ in a subdued manner. It is a welcome moment of serenity in the midst of Maya’s loud and sometimes incoherent thoughts and ideas, displayed on tracks like ‘Fly Pirate’. This is opposed to a perfectly crafted song like ‘Finally’ with a clear message, fiery raps and irresistible hooks.
M.I.A. mentioned that this might be her last album and it sounds like she tried to put as much ideas in as possible. Some work, some miss the mark, but it is undeniable that M.I.A. is still very much relevant and it would be a loss to not get a follow up to AIM. Say of her what you want, but this is a woman on a mission who stands for what she believes in and manages to serve them to the public in sometimes straightforward, sometimes adventurous, but always ear catching productions.
Must listen: Borders, Foreign Friend, Freedun, Bird Song, Finally