Monday, January 12, 2009

Hegemony Funk

M.I.A.'s great "Paper Planes" just came on the iPod (immediately after Captain Beefheart's "When It Blows Its Stacks"), reminding me of jane dark's great remarks (scroll way down) on why it was the song of the year, even though it was from 2007 (and jane wrote about the album, Kala, at length then, too). I don't write about music much anymore, but this was some good shit (and, incidentally, not unrelated to questions about life under neoliberalism and so on). This is only a small portion:
It is the song of 2008 because it was good to listen to during the peak of the financial crisis. It is the song of 2008 because its sheer presence — not its subject, but its circulation — was both symptom and diagnosis of the situation. It is the song of 2008 mostly because the song in one form or another became improbably ubiquitous and then some, moving a million digital downloads, crossing demographics, reaching the bourgeois and rocking the boulevard. It wasn’t as popular in absolute numbers as any number of songs, but its relative popularity reverberated as a mysterious surplus. And that surplus, the condition of possibility for "Paper Planes" to exceed itself, is the surplus of 2008: a surplus of misery, of the awareness of misery, of the awareness of misery as an outcome of inevitable systemic fuckage, and of the dawning awareness that it must change. This is the moment of optimism is that otherwise dread-laced toomuchness wound sinuously through public space in a song whose hook was a semiautomatic and a cash register blent together into a single motion, the coordination of power that scales to every level — and who could decide if that sound was the corner or the world, Bun B and Rich Boy’s scrapey game or DFA's digitized assay of impersonal, imperial force? Both, duh — it was about how collusion, coercion, shake-ya-ass synchronization get solicited at every stratum, for better and mostly for worse.

Let’s call it hegemony funk.

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Blogger waggish said...

The thing about Paper Planes is that the sample is what catches my attention more than anything else, the opening riff from the Clash's "Straight to Hell." I always loved that riff and thought it was dumb that it doesn't reappear after the very opening of the Clash song. So it's nicely satisfying to see a song constructed all around it. And the subject of the original song, Vietnamese babies abandoned by their US GI fathers, complements Paper Planes as well.

January 12, 2009 5:55 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I agree that the Clash sample is brilliant, though I also love the machine gun/cash register effect, too. (I never loved the Clash, though "Straight to Hell" was one of the songs I like the most.)

January 13, 2009 8:46 AM  
Blogger Jim H. said...

Go see "Slumdog Millionaire". There's a Hindi[?]/Urdu[?] version of it in the soundtrack. Really catches you by surprise. Awesome movie. Great song.

Jim H.

January 15, 2009 2:46 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Thanks for the heads up and recommendation, Jim. We've heard great things about the movie.

January 15, 2009 3:36 PM  
Blogger Andrew K said...

Paper Planes is superb, but thought the album it's from pretty patchy..& that's probably being kind. Haven't listened to it in a bit but I htought her debut, Arular was excellent. Raw, sparse yet slippery & playful, as opposed to the usual raw, sparse & probably painful or some such.

January 30, 2009 11:49 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I actually feel the reverse. I loved a couple of the songs on Arular, but the album never really hit me. But I think Kala is marvelous. It is a bit patchy, but I think it works overall.

January 30, 2009 12:20 PM  
Blogger Andrew K said...

I felt there to be a more filled out sound on the second, & do like a few tracks alot- like the Aborigine children one( can rarely remember names), but just thought the core elements were weaker in general. That said, have possibly not given it a proper chance on a good sound system, as opposed to in 'while washing the dishes' mode.

January 30, 2009 2:12 PM  

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