Have i mentioned my recent M.I.A. addiction? I do this thing when i get new music, i want to get intimately familiar with it really quickly and i’m really impatient about it. This usually results in my listening to a track or a cd obsessively over the course of a few days. This has been true of M.I.A.’s first full-length album, Arular, but to an extreme. I’ve been listening to almost nothing else for 1.5 weeks.
But unlike most pop stars, M.I.A. has an unusually interesting background, as a child she moved around quite a bit from her native Sri Lanka, to India, back to Sri Lanka and eventually to the acton council flats in London, due to the civil conflict in Sri Lanka, and further complicated by the fact that her father is/was a Tamil Tiger.
Her music, if you’ve been cave dwelling, or don’t get into the wonderfully clangy-ness that is produced by the Roland 505, has a great deal of war imagery, references to the PLO, allusions to suicide bombings, and the targeting of muslims for terrorist action. Her videos, which are unique, gritty, and in my opinion artfully produced, are even more in-your-face with bomb imagery and contain a prevelance of tiger imagery which is easy to attribute to her family’s connection to the Tamil Tigers. Which poses a bit of an issue for fans and especially reviewers —
no one knows what to say about this album. The international fruit roll-up of her sound, from the influence of funk caioca, reggaeton, grime, electro, dancehall, hip-hop, etc., is difficult enough to describe without having to make the decision to address and decipher the potential politics of her lyrics.
That’s something i won’t even try to do. But i will say that from the interviews i’ve read she seems to range from incredibly cynical to seemingly earnest, and i don’t think that she’s not aware of the complicated politics contained in her art. And i take comfort in the fact that when i’m dancing around my office to Arular when i think no one’s looking, everyone else is too.