28 November 2006
M.I.A. – Arular (XL)
The most hyped artists of a particular year are the ones most likely to endure a polarity of opinion. Those seeking to capture the zeitgeist love the artist because it’s cool to do so; those who would be dissident hate the artist because that other group loves them. And when the season (or week) changes, those zeitgeist-chasers will be onto another fresh scent.
And so we have MIA, victim and beneficiary of her own cool status. The gimmicks used in publicising her are both springboard and albatross, with which she will always have to deal. She’s a girl, of Tamil origin, whose dad (missing in action) is a freedom fighter, and she raps.
As much as I would love to, it is neither easy nor necessarily proper to divorce an artist from their context, but in cases such as MIA, such action is almost required if one is to appreciate the music on its own merits – those being great.
The quickest and laziest reference point here would be Missy Elliott. Both deal with a very fun take on rap music and delivery of flow, with little regard for maintaining stereotype. MIA uses her background and resultant obstacles in her life as virtue, as seen in skits such as ‘Ba-na-na’, a light-hearted satire on ethnic minority in the British education system.
Musically, this is a mishmash of beats and rhymes, all infused with her fiery musical personality. The beats aren’t earth-shattering nor the lyrical content particularly profound, but this is a very catchy and smart pop record; certainly better for you than a Beyonce or Justin.