M.I.A. – Radical Innovator (+ Sleigh Bells)

A bit of my own history: After the decline of Grunge I somehow lost track of what was happening in music. I wasn’t there for the first few years of what we now call Indie. But in 2007 M.I.A. released her second album and a song called “Paper Planes” blew up huge hitting #1 on some charts.  Somewhere along the line I heard it. My reaction was “wow!” I looked into who this was and what it was and I heard.  Someone said it was something called “indie rock.”

The rest is history, but I’ll forever thank M.I.A. for bringing me back to new music. M.I.A. was born in London and comes from a Sri Lankan family. M.I.A. puts politically powerful words to dance beats and does it with a unique sound that includes intense beats, electronic noise, and catchy bits. She innovated rhythms and electronic sounds that just blew people away. Since then many other artists and bands have imitated her style and had great success.  The political aspect means I don’t agree with everything that comes out of her mouth, but I respect her and I do like to hear her point of view.  One thing I can definitely agree with on is her fiercely anti-racist view.  Agree or not, she is a great innovator and someone to pay attention to.

What is her style called? Wikipedia uses a term “avant pop,” I think the term “noise pop” is a good fit, but these terms are used to apply to so many old and new bands so I’m not sure they really work. Whatever you call it, M.I.A. has had a major influence on electronic, dance, and hip hop music.

Here’s a few songs to knock your head against. To show you the influence she has had, I’m including one of her older songs followed by an early song from a band called Sleigh Bells who collaborated with M.I.A. and clearly learned a lot from her.  Finally, a much newer song from M.I.A. so you can see what she is up to these days.

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