Artist of the week: M.I.A.
Stare in awe and never fading perplexity before Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (better known by her stage name M.I.A.), the English rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, director, visual artist, activist, photographer, fashion designer and model, who pretty much entered the world music with a bang with innovative an politically charged mixtapes and albums such as Piracy Funds Terrorism (with Diplo, 2004), Arular (2005) and Kala (2007). Her unique combination of alternative, dance, electronic, hip hop and world music not only gathered a large legion of fans but also an overall praise from critics. Things changed dramatically with Maya (2009) a punkish and prescient dystopian soundscape that in spite of (or perhaps exactly because of that) reflecting our technology-obsessed world was dramatically bashed by critics and ignored by the majority of her fans, and demands to be urgently re-listened and rediscovered in this post-Snowden era. After unsuccessful flirts with the mainstream, Madonna and Roc Nation, M.I.A. released what was, by far, her most accessible record to date, Matangi (2013), which featured “Bad Girls”, her most successful single (and video) since “Paper Planes”.
AIM, her new album, comes tagged as the artist last record and, honestly, none of this gravitas can be heard on the record. On the contrary, this is probably her most uplifting and light collection of songs to date. Though it might sound unfocused on first listens, the album is packed with great songs that demand repeated listens. That is, obviously, with none of its seven singles released since May 2015 and, in particular, with “Freedun, a track that is a strong contender for best pop song of the year.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.