M.I.A – AIM Review 

If there’s one thing M.I.A. does well, it’s originality. From day one, she’s had everyone playing a game of catch-up, always one step ahead of the competition and twenty steps ahead of reviewers, she has been a trailblazer for women, hip-hop and music itself. And crucially, it’s always felt effortless- like she rolled out of bed, pulled on her sequinned tracksuit and churned out a few bangers while juggling being a mother, an activist, a fashion icon, an advocate for women’s rights and a film-maker simultaneously. Nothing has ever fazed her. Constantly breaking boundaries and reinventing herself, M.I.A. has been the face for an ever-changing, fast-paced music scene.
So why does AIM feel so…uninspired?

On the first listen, it’s clear this album, possibly M.I.A.’s last, has been thought-out extensively, and the political overtones are, as ever, unsubtle. It’s just a shame the delivery of these messages is, often, uninspired, unfinished even. The production feels messy, clustered and rushed in places, and when listening to the album as a whole it feels unfocused, missing the mark more frequently than hitting the target. It’s still infused with M.I.A.’s trademark witticisms and stylish fusion of Western culture and Eastern musical influences, but these rare moments of brightness aren’t enough to outshine the drabness of tracks like ‘Fly Pirate’ and ‘Foreign Friend’ which, while not offensively bad, are somewhat forgettable.

Despite this, there are some instances where it feels, for a moment, like the M.I.A. we know and love has returned. ‘Borders’, the first official single released from AIM, juxtaposes modern web slang with the hard-hitting brutality of the refugee crisis, and the effect is a thought-provoking fusion of modern Western society priorities alongside an often-ignored truth, more asking the question ‘What do you care about more?’ than delivering a message. Other highlights include ‘Go Off’, ‘Swords’ and ‘Finally’, however with three out of these four tracks arriving in the first half of the album, it makes for a difficult, disjointed listening experience.

All the components are clearly there, the messages are on their way to being delivered, and there’s interesting ideas floating about this album in abundance. AIM is frustratingly close to being the record it wants to be, but misses the mark by an inch that feels like a mile when compared with M.I.A.’s previous offerings. Half-baked, underwhelming and unfulfilling, it’s nothing to write home about. However, the occasional moments where M.I.A. gets it right make it worth at least one listen.

M.I.A – AIM = 5/10

Katie Hayes


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