Friday, November 13, 2009

2007 : 37 Aught Music Roundtable: "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.


First Pass

Back when we were covering 2005, I wrote that M.I.A. might be the Artist of the Decade, in part because she was the living embodiment of a number of important trends that defined music in the Aughts more broadly. To see that logic continue to play out, one need merely examine the rise of "Paper Planes."

It was released on M.I.A.'s second album, Kala, in 2007, but wasn't the lead single. (That was the likably weird "Boyz.") This track lay dormant until used as the backing track for the Pineapple Express trailer in early 2008, whereupon it blew up in a big way, permeating the culture until even the people who are arguably the biggest musical superstars in the world had to pay tribute. It's easy to see why: the second "Paper Planes" starts playing (about a minute in) is the exact moment this trailer starts to become cool:

Once upon a time it may have been possible to keep your categories separate: movie trailers over here, viral YouTube clips over here, music videos over here, commercials over there. But the Pineapple Express trailer neatly collapses all of these categories: I'd say that it single-handedly sold more copies of "Paper Planes" than any commercial could have, except that it actually is a commercial, for both the movie and the song. Except that it isn't. Except that it is.

One might see this as dispiriting: straight-up evidence that capitalism continues to mutate and evolve, spawning ever more pervasive forms. (The fact that the explicit topic of "Paper Planes" is the circulation of capital can be read as a crowning irony.) Or one might see it as a symbol of the unpredictability and ultimate richness of cultural cross-transmission. Probably it's a little of both, but the fact that a simple dance track can invoke these kinds of questions pretty much exemplifies the enjoyment that I derived from M.I.A. this decade.

Jeremy Bushnell


Second Pass

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make 'em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait

There is something about this song that just captures me. Maybe because it is violent, but sung by a woman. Maybe it indulges the part of me that likes to watch gangster movies. Maybe it is because I like to sing along with the part about murder as I am at the gym. Maybe it is because I want to think the song is about running a lunch truck like the YouTube video.

Anyway, I love this song. It totally sucks me in, like an action movie. This song is total escapism for me. This is one of the best work out songs on my iPod.

Some some some I some I murder
Some some some I let go
Some some some I some I murder
Some some some I let go

Rich Thomas

Listen: M.I.A. >> "Paper Planes"

1 comment:

Darren said...

"I'd say that it single-handedly sold more copies of "Paper Planes" than any commercial could have"

I'd say the use of this same song in Slumdog Millionaire probably sold more copies than Pineapple Xpress did.