Review Summary: What's going on?
You know Donald Trump wants to be president, right? It's a big fu
cking deal. But I'd forgive your lack of interest. After all, the U.K. is leaving the EU, Syria is collapsing under civil war, and the West is generally embracing anti-immigration populism en masse. There's a lot going on. Usually, it would be prime material for M.I.A. She's built a career on songs like "Paper Planes" that address these global problems. She sounds fun. She sounds loose. She sounds cool. But, in that particular example, she can sharply critique market integration, and that's worth something. It's the extra layer of lyrical depth that makes it a M.I.A. song. It's a quality lacking in AIM
, a lackluster mid-career effort billed as her final album. She doesn't have an eye on the headlines, and she hasn't got much to say about herself. She just doesn't sound like the M.I.A. who sang, 'All I wanna do is... take your money
,' and she certainly doesn't sound as effortlessly cool as she did on Matangi
. She sounds bored. A lack of topicality isn't the only problem with AIM
but its certainly the most glaring; in the absence of wit, M.I.A. sounds like a bad imitation of herself.
It should come as no surprise that AIM
is M.I.A.'s most staid album yet. Musically, it does little else than appropriate Eastern motifs over trap drums (appropriation in this case meaning lazy rather than offensive). There's bangers- even Matangi
had them- but they're decidedly more perfunctory than before, with better tracks like "Swords" or the Diplo remix of "Bird Song" reduced to bonus track status. It's not totally irredeemable; "Visa" is a decently competent throwback to classic M.I.A., and the sparing interpolation of Zayn's moaning on "Freedun" emphasizes one of the album's better melodies; were it not for bragging about being from 'Swagistan
', it might even have been a highlight. Alas, AIM
is lyrically lackluster. Particularly for M.I.A., every surface-level observation about borders only hinders her message ("Jump In", "A.M.P.", and, "Borders"). Her blasé delivery doesn't help. Of course, M.I.A. doesn't owe us anything. She's a private citizen, and private citizens can become disenchanted with the news. It's disappointing though that, given we're just minutes from midnight, she doesn't want to save us. In the past she's proven to be a scathing critic of neoliberal complacency. Now she says things like, 'Borders / What's up with that?
' I don't know M.I.A., what is
up with that?