Most widely known for flipping everyone off at the 2012 Superbowl Halftime Show or performing extremely pregnant at the star-studded 2009 Grammy Awards performance of “Swagga Like Us,” the brazen, hyper-political British rapper/singer M.I.A. is back with her fifth and possibly final album, AIM. Her first record since she covered The Weekend and released “Bad Girls” on Matangi in 2013, AIM returns to M.I.A.’s politically charged roots, as she’s been outspoken about immigration law, and not-so-favorable views on societal progression since 2005. “I’m a bit beyond being an artist who says, ‘give peace a chance,’ she told Paper back in 2007, following her release of breakout single “Paper Planes,” “part of me is like, ‘give war a chance,’ just to stir it up, you know what I mean?”
What was meant to be her most politically driven last statement of a record to date, AIM is also her most lyrically undriven. It comes none too surprisingly however, for as much as M.I.A. prides herself on being an artist who bluntly speaks her mind, there isn’t much here when it comes to subject matter other than the overarching “fuck the government!” type-chant. Like some moments on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, which shares a similar looking album cover to AIM, what means to be charged and powerful just comes off vapid due to lyrical decisions:
And it’s not just the repetition (found even more common on some of the other tracks), it’s the feeling that she tried to make the record commercially successful and difficult to listen to at the same time. It’s a feat I’ve only seen work a couple of time: notably Yeezus by Kanye West and Cherry Bomb by Tyler, the Creator (just two I can name off the top of my head). Sure, it’s definitely also the lyrics, with songs like “Bird Song” having bird-pun lyrics such as “I’m robin this joint, Staying rich like an ostrich, we can fly / But toucan fly together, Duck out for some hot weather,” or “I’m a swagger man / Rolling in my swagger van / From the People’s Republic Of Swaggerstan” on “Freedun,” but the record’s abrasive nature coupled with such elementary rhymes and arguably worthless hooks just bury this record.
Most of the songs go on for a whole minute past where they should end, and most of the choruses are just repeated lines from the verses. Songs like “Borders,” “Go Off,” “Finally,” and “Survivor” are decent, especially “Foreign Friend” with Jamaican dancehall singer Dexta Daps, but honestly I expect more than simple bangers with no lyrical takeaway from an artist like M.I.A.