MIA is owning the stage.
With more attitude than nearly every other act put together she is cajoling and ordering her dancers, her DJ and the audience with the certainty of a Roman Empress that is quite astonishing. MIA owns the stage and she owns us with a star power that is backed up with her future pop. The fact that she is singing and rapping over a DJ’s beats and doesn’t need a band is proof that she has ‘dat thing’.
She has the same kind of completely at home on the stage and the imperious power of the late Ari Up from the Slits and the parallels don’t end there. Whilst MIA has gone on to international stardom Ari Up also the same kind of interest in a cross genre dance music but is lost in an underground. MIA has created monster songs that fuse everything from ragga to Baile funk to South African beats to hop hop and then onwards- the crackle and the sizzle of a million modern musics blasting out from every barrio and concrete future slum in the world.
MIA is one of the first 21st century pop stars and as she owns the stage dressed from head to toe in Elvis gold lame she knows it. The music is powerful and envelops you with its ideas and warmth – more astonishing that most of it comes from the DJ and there is no band- most post hip hop music struggles live because of the lack of band to provide the ooomph but somehow MIA has avoided this and the songs sound bigger and bolder live than on record as they surge forwards with their multicultural digital meltdown of beats stomping around a whole plethora of dance floors.
This cutting edge fast forward to the future is one of the key strengths in her sound, the future beat is a treacherous business but MIA is smart enough to make this work and her vocal combines the yelping angst of the eternal teenager with a righteous anger with the wisdom of someone in their late thirties. It’s difficult to believe that MIA is a veteran in pop terms as she shows no sign of slipping into the slipstream of the past and her eternal youth could be fired by her passionate political quest and her fiery and brilliant music.
She is angry and that always fires music. The BBC apparently won’t show her tonight because of the political content of the T shirts work by her dancers concerning the Tamil struggle. It seems a petty omission and a shame became MIA has become a huge hit on the worldwide stage gate crashing the US charts with the fab Paper Planes which rides in on its crowd cheering slowed down take on Mick Jones great riff for the Clash classic Straight To Hell, recent singles like Bad Girls sound huge and the beats are fantastic and powerful whilst the older funk Carioca influenced Galang still has the power to shatter dance floors.
This is a great example of a pop music that is challenging ground breaking and yet still top 10. There is politics, art, sex and danger and a fuck you attitude- the perfect cordite combination for a modern world.