Saturday, 11 February 2012
-Music Videos on my Mind- M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”
London rapper Mathangi Arulpragasam has been making headlines all week, and it's not because of her one finger salute at some overblown American sporting event.
Nay, M.I.A. is garnering much attention for her new big-budget music video, Bad Girls, which depicts decadent Middle Eastern archetypes dressed in stylish niqābs, kanduras, kaffiyehs and military gear, while sporting huge guns and engaging in the recklessly dangerous Gulf Arab pursuit of "hagwalah" (drift racing to you and me).
It's a spectacular video directed by the ever brilliant Romain Gavras, who paints a visually surreal interpretation of contemporary Arab culture. At a time when much of the Western world can't envisage Muslims being anything other than fanatically repressed terrorists, M.I.A. reinterprets them as blazingly fabulous rebels, pimped out in larger than life ways. It's a worthy reminder of the groundbreaking nature of British alternative music.
But let's be honest, M.I.A. is hardly a stalwart paragon of British music. In fact, can we really say M.I.A.'s success has anything to do with her being British? No we can't, because M.I.A. is hardly a big star over here. Her main success has come from the hip-hop crazy States of a United America, where M.I.A. is a major icon. Her albums have been largely overlooked in the UK, whereas across the Atlantic―they've been huge. Even the British Asian community―who should rejoice M.I.A.'s success considering she's one of them―has largely eschewed the singer on grounds of her not being 'desi' enough. Likewise, the British urban scene has hardly embraced M.I.A. either, largely due to the fact the singer's elitist art school heritage tarnishes her pseudo-gangsta image.
Regardless, for a British Asian to have performed at the Super Bowl half-time show last week is an achievement all us Brits should be proud of. M.I.A. souring the evening's events by protruding her middle-finger is hardly something to be annoyed at. Rather more, it's the least we can expect from a creative insurgent bribed into doing a cutesy dance number with some geriatric musical has been.
British artists have always made an effort to offend Americans. Whether it is the Stone Roses who in a radio interview accused the US military of infanticide, or the Sex Pistols' infamous 'Big Tits across America' rant; the British have a longstanding tradition of insulting the world's biggest music market.
I like to think Americans wouldn't have it any other way.