No. 14: M.I.A. Hands Over Some Paper

Dec 21st, 2007 // 11 Comments

And the song at No. 14 doesn’t need your fascist publicity thing in order to prove its greatness.

Lost in a lot of the discussion surrounding M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” (the redacted-by-the-man gunshots! the semantics of sampling the Clash! the Beastie Boys bestowing their blessing on her by cameoing in the video!) is the fact that purely as a song it’s inordinately catchy, with its hazy, steaming-up-from-blazing-pavement beat and its demanding children’s choir that just wants and wants some more. M.I.A.’s Technicoloriot Grrrl persona, of course, only serves to invite her audience to peer deep into her songs–even though there may be more surface to them than meets the eye–but if you can strip away the baggage of blog entries and debates over the “agency” of her music and the tendency of (cough cough mostly male) rock writers trying to get cutesy by referring to M.I.A. as “Ms. Arulpragasam”* and all the other bullshit that’s part and parcel of “being a working musician who pushes a lot of peanut-gallery buttons” in 2007, the song still stands; that’s probably why “Plane” works as well as it does. It’s not easy listening by any stretch, but it brings together the sorta-subversive and the sorta-sublime in a way that maybe hasn’t been glimpsed since that Bikini Kill EP with the song about winning a Motley Crue mirror at the carnival.

M.I.A. PAPER PLANES official video [YouTube]
M.I.A. [MySpace]
Idolator’s 2007 Top 40 List Of Awesomeness

* Seriously, why do people do that? Is it a spelling-bee impulse? Some weird stew of many different “ism”s? Is there any other musician out there who’s been referred to as “Mr./Ms. [last name]” by outlets that aren’t the New York Times as often in 2007?

  1. Rob Murphy

    Seriously, why do people do that? Is it a spelling-bee impulse?…

    I have several theories myself, but my stuff is long and boring, so I’ll see if the funnier folks come up with the same reasons. But also, yeah, the writer’s need to prove that s/he can spell it is part of it.

    Also, Mr. Butler stole my basketball.

  2. Michaelangelo Matos

    see also “the Big Zim” for Dylan; or lots of other things. it is cutesy, obv.

  3. Al Shipley

    Isn’t it just kind of a standard way to switch things up when referring to any solo artist who performs under an alias/band name? I’m sure you can dig up just as many Aphex Twin reviews that refer to “Mr. James” or whatever.

  4. Rob Murphy

    Also, [at least one of] your theory/ies sounds like mine anyway, and you’ve already shared it with us, in your coded way:

    …the tendency of (cough cough mostly male) rock writers trying to get cutesy by referring to M.I.A. as “Ms. Arulpragasam…”

    Yes, the reason you are thinking is a big part of it.

  5. Al Shipley

    I’m totally going to write a review of her next album stating that Little Miss Arulpragasam needs to get back in the kitchen.

  6. Moloko

    Is it just me, or are M.I.A. videos, with the possible exception of ‘Bird Flu’, exceptionally boring? Love her, of course, but shit, why do they bother?

  7. zapfdingbats


  8. Halfwit

    @Moloko: It’s not just you.

    I may be in the minority, but I find that I’m playing “Bird Flu” and “20 Dollar” at almost twice the frequency that I’m playing “Paper Planes”: “Bird Flu” pretty much for the child army between verses, and “20 Dollar” because it’s awesome.

  9. pissy elliott

    more innocuously, some style guides demand Ms. Celebriname, which lead to the hilarious NYT gaffe over “Mr. Loaf.”

    but yeah, dudes. this song is really phenomenal, though.

  10. dreamsneverend

    are you trying to say “Boyz” is boring.. i almost have a seizure when i play that video in the club. my favorite of hers in “Sunshowers” with “Bucky Done Gun” being a close 2nd though.

  11. Diglett

    This has nothing to do with anything, but I’m recovering from back surgery right now, and this is the only song in my entire collection that makes me want to do my mandatory 30 minutes of walking every day. So that’s gotta be worth something. Or something.

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