M.I.A.: AIM (Interscope) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sep 28, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

M.I.A.‘s fifth, and perhaps last studio album is yet another titled after a name, flipped this time into an anagram with implication. Fittingly, she has taken the opportunity to flip her script, stepping down from her soapbox without going so far as to relinquish the megaphone. AIM is one of those albums released in the latter stage of a long run of notoriety, received with annexed interpretations that can overshadow the merits of its intrinsic content. So, its aesthetic vision and playability may thus compete with assessment of its measure in discographical context, filtered through the lens of her evolution, or regression, as an artist. After over a decade of output and visibility inciting her fair share of controversy and reactionism, this is inevitable.

In the wake of the comet that was Art Angels, which established Grimes as a radiant trendsetter prolific in the art of genre mashing extravagance, Maya Arulpragasam has reemerged for a possible curtain call, lest we forget her pioneering in that respect. Production terrain remains a peat mash of bhangra-dancehall, grime-garage-dub-hop but more lush and expansive than ever, inviting yet another genre extension of “pop” to this mix. The leveling up of dramatic production amplitude on “Borders” and “Platforms” is offset by the more playful, stripped down jaunts of “Bird Song” and “Jump In.” Some of the simplicity is refreshing, but some of the restraint translates as drab laziness.

Vocally, M.I.A. has never endeavored to showcase a prowess of projection, but knowing her limitations, embraced the quality of her natural resonance, experimenting with its dexterity.

Her strength has always been in her flow, knowing intuitively how to surf over tripping dub- dance rhythms. She’s still quite content to just let a stripped down beat clusters roll out and land in the drop zones created by the openings between bass kicks. This skill has been consistent since her debut, Arular. Though there is a directional turn away from socio political messaging, she still uses verse as a vehicle for opinion. Her slick cadence sometimes steals shine from the weight of her words. In the intro to behemoth “Borders” she revs the engine, chanting “Freedom ‘I’ dom ‘Me’do /Where’s your ‘We’dom/This world needs a brand new ‘Re’dom/‘We’ dom the key to life/‘We’dom smart phones don’t be dumb.” Nothing on AIM taps back into the fire she had on tracks like the whiplashing “10 Dollar,” or flashes the brashness of “20 Dollar” where she slithers out her own delivery of “Where is My Mind,” but the “swag” hasn’t left her style and that makes up for creative shortsightedness.

Forever outspoken and never shy to weigh in on what it means to be a citizen in the age of digital profligacy, the material on AIM speaks from acknowledgement that there must be moments of not taking yourself too seriously, if for nothing else, to avoid sinking in the cynicism. Age does mellow you out and Arulpragasam has settled into a place of comfortable self awareness. Perhaps the turbulence of the rotation of her own personal sphere in its course of global orbiting has made her better appreciate the solitude of introversion.

As ever, there is risk run by too many tracks and fatigue sets in while listening to AIM. The idea of taking any one of M.I.A.‘s albums and trimming its excess to 12 of the most colorfully resonant offerings is tantalizing to imagine. The same goes for this one. (www.miauk.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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Michael Harvey
September 28th 2016

An intelligent and insightful review. It is at times compromised by awkward diction and too many thoughts in too few words.