AIM… What’s Up With That?

Written by on September 12, 2016

In typical M.I.A. fashion, “AIM,” M.I.A.’s latest and allegedly her last record, layers provocative verses with inventive beats that bop. Well, on some tracks – Others feel thematically repetitive and poorly produced. However, tracks like “Go Off” and “A.M.P. (All My People)” are proof that M.I.A. still has lots to give. If “AIM” is the artist’s last record her unique take on experimental music as well as her unapologetic commitment to her politics will be missed.

Borders – In “Borders,” the beat bops yet the message is confusing. Maya begins by questioning a growing sense of individualism (“Freedom,’I’dom, ‘Me’dom/ Where’s your ‘We’dom?”). She claims that the world is fucked and unity is key (“We’dom – the key”) then goes on to list ways in which borders are set up between nations as well as between the people who inhabit them.

“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?/ Love Wins, what’s up with that?”

Questioning such cultural and political touchpoints is valid. That being said, I have a problem with M.I.A. juxtaposing marriage equality with literal borders. That along with her mention of “identities” simply feels like a reach – M.I.A. trying to be deep. If only M.I.A. had shifted her aim (pun intended) away from human experience and social commentary while focusing more on a rising sense of nationalism causing actual borders to be erected (see: the absurd political success of Donald Trump and the self-sabotaging Brexit vote), “Borders” could have been a great track.

Go Off – No, I mean it. Go off. The track, which M.I.A. produced with help from Skrillex and Blaqstarr, is one of the best in the record. While discussing “AIM” on BBC Radio 1 earlier this year, M.I.A. claimed it is the ‘“cleanest”  record she has made. “I just wanted it to be happy,” she added. “Go Off” is both clean and happy. The beat is simple and a bit repetitive yet instantly infectious. I wish more of the album sounded like this.

Bird Song (Blaqstarr Remix) – Not to be confused with “Bird Song (Diplo Remix),” which is better and can be found on the record’s deluxe version. In Blaqstarr’s version, like in most of the record (see: “Foreign Friend,” “Freedun,”and “Ali R U Ok?”), verses fall flat while Diplo’s club-ready banger retains Blaqstarr’s South Asian influence while playing up some interesting wordplay.

Jump In – “Jump In” is genius in its simplicity. The two-minute track tells a tale told many times before: the one of crossing a border as a refugee or a migrant (“I make a plan/ put it in god’s hand/ and jump into that van”). At one point I wondered if M.I.A. could also be referring to intangible borders such as those she has crossed as an artist to have her politics be heard. (“When I see that border I gon’ cross the line/ When I see that dream I gon’ make it mine”). I’m glad this track exists.

Freedun (feat. Zayn Malik) – Keep it

Foreign Friend (feat. Dexta Daps) – While M.I.A.’s lyrics (“Gonna be your best friend/ Gonna make that shit trend/ I’m gonna be your foreign friend”) are nothing to write home about Dexta Daps’ melodic vocals make for a solid track.

Finally – “Finally” is my least favorite tracks on the album. Somehow M.I.A. manages to sound like Lily Allen. But not iconic (“F*ck You”) Lily Allen, bad (“Sheezus”/ “Hard Out Here”) Lily Allen. The song didn’t need to be in the album.

A.M.P. (All My People) – Back in 2012 M.I.A. released a snippet of “A.M.P. (All My People)” but the song never made it to “Matangi,” which was released soon after in 2013. The song is great but somehow feels out of place. A lot of the tracks in “AIM” fail to come together for the same reason. Some are fighting for attention while others simply feel unfinished.

Ali R U Ok? – This is a song that is also on the album.

Visa – “Visa” features some of the best rhymes in the record as well as beats reminiscent to M.I.A.’s earlier work (think “Galang” meets “Y.A.L.A.”). Earlier work is also referenced on the track (“They call me Arular, trendsetter, makin’ life real better/ Breaking order like a leader now folla”).

Fly Pirate – In the video for “Borders” M.I.A. wears a modified version of the French soccer team Paris Saint Germain’s t-shirt with the sponsor changed “Fly Emirates” to “Fly Pirates.” The t-shirt is cooler than this song.

Survivor – Finally, “Survivor” seems like a failed attempt to bring the record together with a hopeful tone (“Survivor, survivor/ Who said it was easy?/ They can never stop we”).

Listen to: Go Off, Bird Song (Diplo Remix), A.M.P. (All My People), and Visa

Skip over: Finally and Ali R U Ok?

Overall: 6/10

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