Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Take Your Money

So, apparently, "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. became a big hit and I never noticed it until recently. (The same thing happened with Twilight - where the hell did that come from?) This confuses me. It's not that I don't like the song; it's quite good. But I never really pictured it as M.I.A.'s breakthrough hit. I mean, it went to #4 on the US charts, and now it's up for Record of the Year at the Grammys. I don't get how this happened.

My consternation has many sources. First off, this song is old. It was released as a single pretty early this year, all the "hip" folks went nuts, and then it sort of went away. Apparently, it entered the mainstream upon being featured in the trailer for Pineapple Express, gradually climbing the charts. It's not the first song to experience delayed success, so this isn't really the main cause of my confusion.

Bigger cause of confusion: Musically, this song is weird. Not super-weird, but for mainstream radio? Weird. It's way repetitive, M.I.A. seems stuck somewhere between singing and rapping, and the chorus? It is made of gunshots. Lyrically, the song's popularity is even more confounding. M.I.A. goes all Randy Newman on us and attacks Americans for our assumptions about foreigners by acting like we're right. This is where I get truly concerned, as I assume that most people ignore the lyrics in favor of the nifty beat and the novelty of the gunshots. I can't decide if this means M.I.A. wins (she gets our money and our love while totally subverting us) or loses (her message gets totally lost on the deaf American ears she's mocking.) But mostly, I'm just confused how I managed to be entirely unaware of this until now. I need to get back onto the pop culture bandwagon once I'm done with this blasted graduate degree.

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