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Album review: M.I.A. embraces life during wartime on ‘AIM’

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Four stars

M.I.A. AIM

M.I.A.’s AIM doesn’t tip its hand right away. Its opening track, “Borders,” is a banger of the variety M.I.A. can produce offhandedly, equal bits Missy Elliott and radical polemics. (Inexplicably, she throws in a bit of Jerry Seinfeld: “Politics/What’s up with that?”) It shakes your moneymaker, it makes you think, etc.—but it’s hardly unknown territory for an artist who’s made a career of bringing beats to the battlefield.

Luckily, the rest of AIM does cross the lines M.I.A. has drawn around herself since Arular dropped in 2005, to spectacular effect. If her previous albums have been about staring down ideology and violence, AIM is about making a life in spite of it. “Gonna be your best friend/Gonna make that sh*t trend,” she raps in “Foreign Friend,” while “Freedun” finds M.I.A. laying down arms to party: “A little bit of fun, yeah, I don’t see the wrong.” The music agrees with her, forgoing the dissonance that’s marked some of her more challenging listens (see: “Born Free”) for upbeat melodies and addictive hooks.

AIM isn’t without missteps. “Bird Song” is practically a novelty tune, all puns and goofy rhymes (‘Stayin’ rich like an ostrich”). But none of that matters by the time you reach the final track, “Survivor.” Over shimmering synths, M.I.A. returns to the battlefield, but this time, she’s arm-in-arm with a friend: “Who said it was easy?/They can never stop we.”

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