I fly like paper: the best of M.I.A.

Unlike many peers, this gay brown man doesn’t impose grand stratagems on Maya Arulpragasam. At her best she banged like Debbie Deb in “Look Out Weekend” — a singer with a voice like a pulse blaster infatuated with beats and where they take her, and so rich is her streaming play list that her beats encompass Dr. Buzzard Original Savannah Band, New Order, the Clash, and several TB 303 sequencers. Which is not to say that “Paper Planes” and “Sunshowers” have little to say about being a cosmopolite by sensibility who by her own admission grew up in dire poverty and whose father founded Tamil independence movement Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students. That’s where my interests and upbringing and hers superficially intersect: writing about revolutionary politics from the point of view of a person shaped by a relative’s choices, and assembling a language that synthesizes, at the risk of maladroitness, the inherent paradoxes and frustrations.

I’m not going to re-litigate the arguments waged a dozen years ago about M.I.A.’s authenticity, or the bullshit over her eating truffle fries seven years ago, not when Julia Michaels is the only woman with a hit under her own name in the Hot 100 top twenty this week. Indeed, her chart stats last year were grim: AIM spent a week on the album chart last fall, and I suspect it got as high as #66 in the current environment because listeners streamed the Zayn collaboration. In 2017 I’ll even take another Madonna-M.I.A. track.

1. Paper Planes
2. Sunshowers
3. Galang
4. The Turn
5. XXXO
6. Bucky Done Gun
7. Boyz
8. Bad Girls
9. Pull Up the People
10. Bamboo Banga
11. Borders
12. Bird Flu
13. 10 Dollar
14. Jimmy
15. Born Free

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