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