‘AIM’ is one of the most disappointing albums in recent years, the fact that it comes from the once credible M.I.A. it’s even more of a letdown. In one of my previous articles, I compared M.I.A. to Madonna – someone who found cutting edge producers to make her music sound more credible – and just like Madonna, M.I.A. has now delivered an embarrassing album that only her hardcore fans will buy, for anyone who isn’t a doormat or a yes-man, ‘AIM’ is undoubtedly the worst album of her career. Releasing a poor LP would usually be fine since she has in the past followed a disappointing offering like ‘Maya’ with the better ‘Matangi’, but with M.I.A. stating that this will be her last album, we are now left with her worst work as her swan song.
The album opens with ‘Borders’ a corny sounding track which features the meaningless and repetitive line “What’s up with that?” along with the overused digital snare that gets very irritating. Thankfully this song is followed by the much better ‘Go Off’, but this Skrillex and Blaqstarr produced track is the only decent song on the entire album, the rest is a heap of reeking garbage.
‘AIM’ contains a few overly simplistic songs such as ‘Bird Song’ (Blaqstarr Version) with its amateur-sounding vocal sample complete with some audio clipping. ‘Jump In’ is another empty song, and with its annoying echoes and non-existent production, the end result is a bit of a mess, in fact it’s almost a non-song. Listening to this particular joint makes you wonder – why even include this track? It’s so obviously crap.
This shitty-ness and simplistic-ness is the least of this LP’s worries, and after ‘Jump In’ the Pop-music takeover begins. Firstly there’s ‘Freedun’ featuring Zayn Malik, and with M.I.A. delivering corny lines like “I’m a swagger man, from the People’s Republic of Swaggerstan” over some corny pop-sounding production, the whole thing makes you simultaneously cringe and wretch. This song contains some very simple rhymes and Zayn’s vocals don’t add or detract anything from it, with or without him it’s a travesty (and referencing Nas’ line “Whose world is this?” doesn’t make it any better).
The Pop onslaught doesn’t stop there, and even without an ex-boy-band guest spot, ‘AIM’ is jam-packed with radio-friendly shite. With this album the Pop-crap comes from every direction possible, not just One Direction. For instance, there’s piss-poor lines like “I’m cuckoo for you” in ‘Bird Song’, some contrived beats and horridly basic rhymes in ‘Foreign Friend’, there’s some nasty singing and some chipmunk vocals in ‘Finally’ which also features a tacky pop-ragga beat. ‘Visa’ is another badly constructed song which sounds slightly bhangra and slightly banal, and ‘Fly Pirate’ which sports an outdated air-raid siren, not to mention a repeated and chopped vocal (“Fly fly pirate, fly fly fly”) sounds completely dull and conventional in 2016.
Just to confirm that ‘AIM’ is aiming for pop culture rather than the underground, the album contains a few Pop references such as the line “Can’t touch this like MC Hammer” from ‘Visa’, even the title of ‘Ali R U OK?’ alludes to the lyric “Annie Are You Okay?” by Michael Jackson, and although the production is fine in ‘Ali R U OK?’, M.I.A.’s lyrics are completely and utterly dire. There’s also Hip-Pop references like the shit-tastic line “Baby got back? I got front” in ‘A.M.P. (All My People)’ and some trying-to-be-in contemporary-corniness in the form of lines like “Make that shit trend” in ‘Foreign Friend’.
Speaking of ‘Foreign Friend’, not only is this another song that’s way too Pop for M.I.A., (as well as featuring horridly basic rhyme schemes like end, friend, trend etc.) this track is also one of many songs that contain an overtly pro-refugee slant (without any real feeling I might add). With M.I.A. saying “Where we come from?” you think to yourself – wasn’t she born in Hounslow, London?
Focussing on Calais and the like in a bunch of songs that don’t really put forward a hardcore opinion sounds slightly inappropriate and offensive to me, especially since M.I.A. is now firmly part of the rich and famous. Once you get engaged and procreate with the son of a billionaire, once you collaborate with Versace, you pretty much lose your “Ghetto Pass” as it were. I mean what does she really know about the life of a refugee these days, if indeed she ever did? But I digress…
The ordinary version of the album ends with ‘Survivor’ another cheap-sounding, singing track with yet more high-pitched snares, and if this is the only edition you have access to, then you’ll be much more disappointed than those listening to the deluxe version. That’s not to say that the extra tracks save this album in any way, but the deluxe version of the album at least contains two better songs (‘Swords’ and ‘Talk’). But that being said, the extended edition also contains the vocoded shite ‘The New International Sound Pt. 2’, the Diplo version of ‘Bird Song’ which is just as average as the Blaqqstarr version, in fact it’s almost indistinguishable, and finally there’s ‘Platforms’ which sports some singing but it’s not as crap as some of the other stuff on the standard version of the LP. It would have been better if M.I.A. added ‘Swords’ and ‘Talk’ (and even ‘Platforms’) to the regular edition of the album and maybe remove some of the trash on the standard version, but even then ‘AIM’ would still be a dud.
Nothing on this album is current or mind-blowing, in fact nothing here is new at all. M.I.A. hasn’t moved on from her original sound, and her mid-noughties aesthetic is now sadly mainstream. But that being said, a typical M.I.A. track like ‘Go Off’ is still listenable, but this album is filled to the brim with bubblegum Pop masquerading as credible, songs that don’t sound like M.I.A. at all.
M.I.A., especially for her final album should have progressed as an artist and evolved musically rather than devolve like this, she should have tried to create something new or at the very least new-ish. But instead of simply becoming stagnant, she’s now venturing into the realms of Pop – but for what? Why destroy your discography with this trash?
This album includes a plethora of horridly “cross-over”, watered-down tracks that will only appeal to the worst kind of person, and with only one song worth listening to (or three if you have the Deluxe Edition), the whole experience is so disappointing and unappealing it’ll have you digging out ‘Arular’ or ‘Kala’ as a reprieve from all the corny, auto-tuned, faux-Trap Pop music.
M.I.A. was never a great lyricist but the combination of up-to-the-minute production and catchy choruses was a potent mix. ‘AIM’ on the other hand is like some sound-alike trying to imitate M.I.A. or sadly M.I.A. not knowing what’s in-style any more and instead cobbling together a selection of tracks that were too weak to appear on her earlier works. Her lyrics on this album are embarrassing and the beats are almost tailor-made to appeal to an uninitiated radio crowd – this is not the M.I.A. we all know and love.
M.I.A. has been a pretty decent artist for around ten years, she straddled the line between under and overground very skilfully and she’s made some great music over the years. Even though it’s taken eleven years, M.I.A. has finally made an album that sounds distinctly like selling out, and with ‘AIM’ being around 95% Pop, this is the worst way to end her musical career. You know when an album is bad when you make notes about the tracks and then have to search for a synonym for “disappointment” – but that’s what ‘AIM’ is; a big, underwhelming, disappointment. After listening to ‘AIM’ it seems that the original noughties incarnation of M.I.A. is indeed “Missing In Action”.