Monday, February 6, 2012

M.I.A's 'Bad Girls' is Indeed, Very Bad

It blows my mind that the new M.I.A track ‘Bad Girls’ has made the splash it has. The lyrics are obtuse, the ‘singer’ fickle and the video, a crime against the work of scholars like Edward Said and Anwar Abdel Malik.

The song bounces between M.I.A’s crude lyricism - with delights such as ‘live fast, die young, bad girls do it well’ and ‘pull me closer if you think you can hang… don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang’ – and ludicrous imagery of what I can only assume are meant to be youth from the Arabian Gulf, hanging out in the desert in bling-adorned thobes and burkas, churning out wheelies whilst M.I.A dangles herself out of the passenger seat. As they do.

The fact that some people have gone as far as to translate the driving hijabi’s and the singer’s passenger-side cruising as M.I.A saluting women’s driving rights in the Arabian Gulf is both ridiculous and laughable. We’re talking about the same girl who wants to ‘give war a chance’ and caused human rights organisations grief during the end of a 25 year long civil war between Sri Lanka’s government and the Tamil Tigers, labelling it naively as genocide.

It’s also the same girl that spoke to the New York Times about wanting to be ‘an outsider’ whilst munching on truffle-flavoured French fries and hanging out in her Los Angeles mansion, funded and secured by her fiancé, and son of the Warner Music Group chief exec. Edgar Bronfman, Ben Bronfman. So now we know how she continues to manage record deals.

This is also the same woman who indirectly called Lady Gaga unattractive & unoriginal. Lady Gaga sold 3 million digital copies of her latest album, Born This Way, and is officially the most popular personality on Twitter, with over 18 million followers. I’m not suggesting record sales equal good music, but ‘copying’ a fellow artist’s video (Telephone) and then feigning superiority is typical M.I.A. Spoiled.

The very concept of orientalism is embodied in the video. The division of us and them, i.e. traditional Khaleeji dress, dangerous stunt driving and desert landscapes versus the heroic ‘Western’ figure, standing up for Arab women’s rights, decked out in men’s & modern clothing – is obvious and horrifying. We have once again given the West the right to ‘orientalise’ us. What a shame that so many of my peers appear to have confused freedom of expression and artistic liberty with what is so clearly a cultural catastrophe. 

You can watch M.I.A’s ‘Bad Girls’ video, here.

You can watch a snippet of an interview with late scholar, and my personal hero, Edward Said, here.

You can read M.I.A’s PR disaster of an interview, here

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