Among the colorful palette of artists in pop music today, I've noticed parallels between M.I.A. and Kanye West. Both have taken their wealth and branched out into other artistic media, both rarely watch their words, and both apparently like making videos set in the desert with cars.
The difference between the two is that Kanye has grown with every album and backed up his outspoken attitude with great tunes, while M.I.A.'s output has declined with every album. Artists ranging from Shabazz Palaces to Gang Gang Dance have beat M.I.A. at her own high-impact, abstract art game since her vindicating mixtape, Vicki Leekx, dropped on the eve of 2011.
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Speaking of games, during last Sunday's Super Bowl halftime performance, I was more impressed by that dancer with the propeller leg and that dude bouncing off the tightrope on his crotch than M.I.A.'s middle-finger stunt.
Her latest single, "Bad Girls," refurbishes a cut from Leekx. The syncopated beat calls back A.R. Rahman's "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire, and hearing the tempo again brings back embarrassing memories of people trying to impress me by calling me Jay and a ho.
Among Maya's reliably apathetic lyrics is an acute reflection on her career: "Had a handle on it/My life, but I broke it." I'd like to think M.I.A.'s preparing something that deserves all the attention she's getting. Otherwise, she's got a long row to Jai Ho before anyone is impressed by her again.