Album Review: M.I.A. - AIM

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mathangi Arulpragasam aka M.I.A. has given us her fifth studio album 'AIM', with the aim of addressing the refugee crisis and giving us an insight into her own experiences as a Tamil refugee, having fled Sri Lanka early on in life.  Unfortunately, I felt that it fell short of expectation.  Having heard some of her earlier work, seen her powerful film clip to Born Free and then having read the press release for this album, I was so excited to hear what she had to say, especially given the refugee crisis here in our own backyard (well not quite in our backyard, which is a major part of the issue); but she didn’t quite deliver the influential masterpiece that I thought she was capable of.

I was disappointed right from the get go, given the title of her opening track Borders and was expecting deep, intelligent, possibly even intense prose, almost; but instead heard lyrics such as:

Borders (What’s up with that?) / Politics (What’s up with that?) / Police Shots (What’s up with that?) / Identities (What’s up with that?) / Your privilege (What’s up with that?) / Broke people (What’s up with that?) / Boat people (What’s up with that?) / The realness (What’s up with that?) / The new world (What’s up with that?) / Am gonna keep up on all that”

Aurally, I didn’t enjoy either version of Bird Song (there were two included, one was a Blaqstarr remix and the other was mixed by Diplo.  Both have this sound akin to those annoying vuvuzelas, you know the ones that were all you could hear during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  There were some good bird-name double entendres in there but not enough to give the song any form of credibility.  

Freedun features Zayn who would have had cause to weigh in on racism/discrimination; and while it does scratch the surface with several throw away lines it never truly expands on any subject matter, to any depth.  Zayn is also terribly auto-tuned to the point that his usually distinguishable voice is unrecognisable.  

Foreign Friend is possibly the hardest hitting song lyrically on the album, as she goes into some detail with a simplified timeline for a 'successful' refugee survivor and the way refugees in general will always be someone’s ‘foreign friend’ despite any degree of assimilation.  Favourite lyric was:

I said as a refugee, you know / 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.

As well as Foreign Friend, album highlights were FinallySurvivorThe New International Sound – Pt.2 with Gener8ion, which is a follow up to his previous The New International Sound, and again, Platforms introduces some heavy content but doesn’t really go into any depth.  

Perhaps my hopes were set too high for this release and although there were cleverly placed subtle references to her previous releases, production by Skrillex amongst others and some amazingly poignant film clips for Borders and Go Off (prompting the idea that perhaps it would’ve been more powerful had it been a visual album like Beyonce’s last couple), I have rated the album 2 ‘paper planes’ out of 5.  I’m interested to hear what others thought however, so please let us know what you thought of 'AIM'.

Written by Kate Carnell