M.I.A. – XXXO
So 2010 was the year it all seemed to go a bit pear-shaped for M.I.A. and oddly enough initially it all seemed to be going so well for her too. Her “Born Free” video got banned from youtube (you can still see it on dailymotion here http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xd2w3j_m-i-a-born-free-video-official-real_music ), but arrived to a really strong critical reaction (and rightly too, its a damn good video) , and people seemed to be genuinely anticipating what she was going to come up with next, especially seeing as she is seen as a bit of an innovator rather than a follower.
Then the New York Times article happened, and M.I.A. appeared to have jumped the shark. If you haven’t read the article, you can read it here –
Its quite long, but if you like M.I.A. or if you are just interested in the music industry its a good read. It basically paints her as a bit of a fake with very unclear political opinions – this is something that would never normally be a problem for an average popstar, but as such a fiercely political popstar that she doesn’t really seem to know what shes actually on about makes her look a bit stupid. There are other factors as well – being married to a billionaire and keeping it real, being a rubbish live performer etc etc The girl essentially got stitched up, and it had a real knock on effect on her career.
M.I.A. essentially became a victim of her own success in my opinion…she was never really meant to be a mainstream artist, and to be honest there isn’t really a place for her in the mainstream – but she suddenly had the spotlight thrust upon her with the huge (and not entirely planned) success of Paper Planes, the New York Times article would never have been written had that track never have been a hit, and her questionable politics and background would never have been drudged up.
The effect of it was however that a lot of respect for M.I.A. that she had previously commanded evaporated straight away. The album arrived with really quite appalling reviews and all interest in it faded straight away after the week of release. She didn’t exactly help herself either by fighting back against the New York Times relatively immaturely over twitter. She is notably absent from almost ALL year end critics lists this year with Robyn taking her usual reserved leftfield pop artist spot, this could well be down to the negative reviews the album recieved (duh), but I have seen very little (aside from the NME list) in the way of love for Born Free or XXXO either for the singles themselves or their videos.
All this is a bit by-the-bye however, a lot of this seems to be slowly forgotten now, and M.I.A. is probably best keeping her head down for a year or so and coming back with something amazing when shes ready.
XXXO was the official lead single from the album, and despite all the controversy and slating in the press, it really was an absolute tune. It got a very mixed reaction upon debut, but it was pretty much fully embraced by the gays. The track is essentially M.I.A. doing a track off Britneys Blackout album, and is by far and away the poppiest thing that she has ever done, I also think its really super-good.
I love the build up of the backing track and synth noises throughout the song and how it all comes together on the chorus. The track itself is probably an intentional parody of the overly synthy pop music of the moment or something, but whatever a great pop song is a great pop song, and this is a really fantastic one.
The video I wasn’t too keen on personally (although lots seem to love it)…a little too obvious and lazy for me, but she does look absolutely stunning in it –