[11] M.I.A., ‘Bad Girls’


Can’t help thinking M.I.A. has found her song and is sticking to it BUT I LIKE IT. I think I like it because of the reaction it draws out of Junior – she pulls the buffalo stance and a lightning flurry of rude boy gestures. Doesn’t M.I.A. do just that to all of us? She’s a Neneh with haphazard politicial bearings, and her songs are the Guardian Guide gone audio.

All this and “it sounds like a bad girl’s voice”. So Junior and I agree Maya talks it like she walks it.

[14] M.I.A., ‘Born Free’


“This is just noise.” “It’s exciting.” “It’s echoing, it feels loud.” M.I.A. is used to eliciting mixed responses, and all of these come from the same five-year-old. A five-year-old who’s just taken nearly five years to realise I’m making a note of her reactions, and so gets a whole lot more vocal about them.

It is just noise too, but I’m still blinded by hype – perhaps it’s not just hype after all? – and lap it up over and over. M.I.A. takes Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’, turns it up until it creaks at the edges, then bombasts over the top of it, ever-relevant, ever-empty. With M.I.A., What seems uncompromising on the surface is always firmly anchored by a pure pop sensibility. It was the same, really, with Suicide, whose name fascinated me when I saw it for the first time in NME’s All Time 100 Albums, published in late 1985. I’d bought the paper as a taster, a candidate to replace Smash Hits which I felt I’d outgrown (ha!) – in the end, I went for Record Mirror because Mum thought NME was a bit rude, but that list burrowed into me, a primer for a new education.

[12] M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’


It’s a little bit 2007, yeah – off last year’s splendid Kala album – but hit big in the States this year before getting an actual single release here. It’s a little bit 1982 as well, what with that whacking great Clash sample pinning the whole caper down while M.I.A. goes nuts with gunshot and cash till samples. Still, she at least managed to make a song out of ‘Straight To Hell’; something The Clash couldn’t do, for a start.

Quiet at the back.

The big noise on ‘Paper Planes’ is M.I.A.’s much-touted personality – and those jarring shots, obviously. It’s a cheeky way to punctuate a chorus, and God help it if it ever popped up on the Daily Mail office stereo. The ringing till is either saying something profound about the economics of war (or war of economics) or Maya is chucking everything she can find (words, sounds, beliefs) at the zeitgeist and seeing what sticks; which is, in essence, a template for her career. While she’s this colourful, we’ll let it slide.

Junior ponders it all over breakfast before pushing her chair back and pronouncing the record “funny”.

[11] M.I.A., ‘Jimmy’

M.I.A., ‘Jimmy’

No.11 might be a bit high for this, but I also wanted to pay tribute to a sparkling album, Kala. It’s a flibbertigibbet of a record, magpie eyes on an array of styles, brimming with ideas, and ‘Jimmy’ is its catchy pop face.
Much has been made of M.I.A.’s careless politicising on this song – “Take me on a genocide tour, take me to Darfur” – which, while they lyrics are somewhat glib, is missing the point. Boney M are past masters at this, weaving outrageous tales of a priapic Russian monk into a disco storm, and by accident or not, ‘Jimmy’ does sound a lot like ‘Rasputin’. It also recalls ABBA’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and hence Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’, with Bollywood strings (it’s a semi-cover of a Bollywood soundtrack tune about Jimmy Aaja, Disco Dancer!) creating an endless swirl around the dancing beats. Annoyingly contagious and infectiously vexing.
These strings have Junior twirling around too, with and without Dad. She holds a hand in the air, turning it around and around in apt style. The picture disc was a hit too, and she insisted on putting it on the turntable herself, superfly young DJ.
20-11 always feels a touch random, as if it doesn’t matter where each song is placed. 10-1 is more rigorous. Readers, it’s been a bit hectic, so take time to digest and ruminate. We’ll resume on Monday, December 17. Cheerio.