Ever since the release of her debut album ‘Arular’ in 2005, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam aka M.I.A., has been breaking the musical boundaries with her unique sound and sense of style.
Now with over 10 years in the music industry M.I.A. has established herself as one of the most exciting and innovative artists of recent years. After catching attention in 2003 with the independent release of ‘Galang’ she got signed by XL Recordings in 2004. This lead to her debut album ‘Arular’ being released in March 2005 and instantly gathered masses of critical acclaim and even got shortlisted for the coveted Mercury Music Prize in July 2005.
With the mix of alternative hip-hop, dancehall and electronic beats, ‘Arular’ stood out as there was nothing around like that at the time along with the fact that M.I.A. had the cool factor, something that clearly missing from the music industry back then. Even though the album may have not made much of an impact on the charts (peaking at number 98 in the UK and 190 in the US) M.I.A. managed to get people excited about her music and what she would come up with next.
Following on from ‘Arular’ M.I.A. released the albums ‘KALA’ in 2007 and ‘MAYA’ in 2010 which much like her debut record gained a great deal of critical acclaim. As more and more people were finding out about M.I.A. through the internet with sites like YouTube and MySpace, she began to gather more success with her second and third albums both gaining higher chart positions, with ‘MAYA’ even breaking the American top 10. Also she had a hit single on her hands with ‘Paper Planes’, from the 2007 album ‘KALA’, which would go on to feature in the film ‘trailer for ‘Pineapple Express’ and became M.I.A. highest charting single to date (peaking at number 19 in the UK and number 4 in the US). The track was even sampled in the track ‘Swagga Like Us’ performed by Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil Wayne. She even performed the track with the superstar rappers at the Grammy Awards in 2009 even though she was 9 months pregnant and supposedly due on the night of the performance.
One artistic element that M.I.A. is known for is her visual style in regards to music videos, many of them have been critically acclaimed worldwide. Her 2012 video for song ‘Bad Girls’ won two MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated at the 2013 Grammy Awards for ‘Best Short Form Music Video’. The video itself gathered a lot of attention for showcasing women wearing niqabs driving cars in Saudi Arabia, many saw it as a political statement about gender equality and praised the striking visual elements of the video. Others were more negative about the video in regards to racial stereotyping and the fact that it would be illegal for any woman in Saudi Arabia to do the things that are shown in the video. Either M.I.A. had people talking with the ‘Bad Girls’ video, which is something that people admire her for as she always delivers original and boundary deifying videos.
2013 saw the release of her much awaiting fourth album ‘Matangi’ which includes the singles ‘Bad Girls’, ‘Bring The Noize’ and ‘Come Walk With Me’. The album faced many delays before finally getting released at the beginning of November, with M.I.A. herself stated that she wanted to leak the album just so she could get it out into the public domain. Once the album was finally released, much like her previous efforts, to much critical acclaim and even topped the US Dance and Electronic chart.
Ever since her debut release M.I.A. has always stood out from the crowd whether it be with her music, style or her public persona, she has always managed to showcase her originality. She continues to break the boundaries with her eye-catching videos and at times controversial performance style which has allowed her to gather masses of critical acclaim and helped her pick up numerous awards throughout her career, which is still going strong today.
Written by Harry Towse