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Album Review: M.I.A. - AIM

By Diana Powers, Contributor

[Interscope; 2016]

Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Borders”, “AMP (All My People)”, “Ali r u ok?”

M.I.A. is nothing short of a legend. Since her 2007 hit “Paper Planes” pushed her into the mainstream, M.I.A. has been one of the most outspoken forces in music. From flashing her middle finger during her 2012 Super Bowl performance to tweeting the phone number of a New York Times writer who wrote an unflattering piece on her, M.I.A. has made it clear she does what she wants. This is also true of her music. Her sound is a cutting blend of Eastern world music mixed with Western hip-hop beats. As a one time Sri Lankan refugee in London, M.I.A.’s past works dealt with issues surrounding immigration and Eastern life. AIM is no different in terms of lyrical content. Said to be M.I.A.’s last album, AIM is a highly anticipated release from a one-of-a-kind artist.

The opening track “Borders” is easily the highlight of the album. Backed by a blend of hip-hop and world music sounds, M.I.A. discusses highly relevant issues of border patrol, privilege and superficial obsessions, rapping, “Borders (what’s up with that?) / Police shots (what’s up with that?) / Being bae (what’s up with that?).” In “Borders,” M.I.A. effectively calls out the Western world’s privilege and obsession with trivial matters (such as “being bae”) to distract themselves from very real world issues.

“Ali r u ok?” is one of AIM’s strongest tracks. Mystical, Indian-influenced instrumentals make it one of the more interesting moments on the record. “A.M.P (All My People)” is one of the most energetic tracks aside from “Borders,” with its intense, in-your-face beats M.I.A. has become known for.

While M.I.A.’s signature Eastern and Western blend continues to intrigue listeners, AIM does not possess the abrasive punch M.I.A.’s past releases had. Certain tracks drag and make the album somewhat forgettable. Tracks such as “Freedun” and “Finally” lack M.I.A.’s loud individuality and sound somewhat generic (as generic as M.I.A. can be).

While AIM has its faults, M.I.A. is an immensely unique and talented artist. Tracks such as “Borders” and “A.M.P. (All My People)” highlight the potential AIM possesses. M.I.A. brings issues of immigration, war and border patrol to light, which do not get a lot of coverage in most popular Western music. M.I.A. has established herself as an outspoken activist and visionary, and if she is truly done releasing albums, many will sorely miss her one-of-a-kind sound and message.

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