By Tye Musante, Contributing Writer
Mathangi Arulpragasam (better known by her stage name MIA)’s fifth studio effort “AIM” seems to be very focused and purposeful, although at rare moments it isn’t clear what exactly she’s aiming for.
MIA kicks off the parade with a vaguely antiestablishment banger called “Borders” that will leave you a little confused. As we’ve come to expect from her, the beat is sick as hell. However, her lyrics try so hard to be poignant that they form more of a list of potential subjects that could be discussed more in-depth, rather than a fully baked song on a specific concept. It is unclear whether the song is a statement about border control, politics, police brutality, identity politics, classism, homelessness, smart phones or the new world order. Her decision to tackle it all immediately on the first song is a little messy.
The situation is fortunately saved by the psychedelic, bass-heavy second track “Go Off,” where you are sucked right back into the dance zone. Perhaps more influenced by trip-hop and modern music trends than by tribal beats this time around, “AIM” presents MIA at the top of her game, for the most part.
Everything goes uphill from that point, with the expert production and hypnotizing vocals we fell in love throughout her career popping and flowing. She enlists the help of Zayn Malik, Dexta Daps, Diplo and GENER8TION on the album, but her collaboration with the former One Direction boy really takes the cake. His dreamy vocals mesh beautifully with MIA’s dreamy soundscape and take “Freedun” to the next level.
Dexter Daps shows off his vocals chops on “Foreign Friend,” but even his angry belt is not enough to distract attention away from MIA herself. Her singing voice, though not technically perfect, is simply enough to take us for a ride, and at its best moments feels reminiscent of the airy but confident vocals in Lily Allen’s 2014 effort “Sheezus,” and while we’re on the subject of -zus’s, I must point out that her talent with selecting and manufacturing captivating samples is only rivaled by Kanye West. She displays an untouchable sureness and herself and an audacity that would make Ye proud (and perhaps a little scared).
The sword fighting sound clip in “Swords” makes for a violent, revolutionary tone that reverberates throughout the album. “AIM” captures MIA’s fighting spirit and makes the argument, once again, that there are no fucks to be given. If you’re not with her, even when you’re not quite sure what’s going on, the only reasonable thing to do is to party along and let her do her thing.