M.I.A. Wrote a Vulnerable, Blur-Sampling Breakup Song

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Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 21 2013 1:27 PM

M.I.A. Wrote a Vulnerable Breakup Song

M.I.A.
M.I.A. performs in 2012.

Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for smart

Truffle fries aside, M.I.A. is typically a political artist, not a personal one. She’s known for her agitpop empowerment anthems like “Pull Up the People” and “Bad Girls” and sonic assaults like “Paper Planes” and “Born Free,” not love songs and the usual pop fare. Which is why some fans might find her new song, which she shared last night, off-putting at first: It’s a breakup song.

Which is not to say it’s conventional. The conceit is that the song is like a miniature mixtape delivered to a lost lover, and so it’s built from a collage of samples. Over the beat from Fresh 4 and Lizz E’s “Wishing on a Star,” which itself features the classic drum break from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” she layers a vocal from Carly Simon’s “Why” (around 3:38) and some guitar and vocals from Blur’s “Tender” (around 1:30), on which the melody is based. And this is all before an abrupt, Yeezus-style left turn into Karen Dalton’s “I Love You More Than Words Can Say,” around 3:50. Overall, the music sounds less like M.I.A. than the Dust Brothers’ eclectic productions for the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique.

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Except the lyrics aren’t typical for either MIA or this kind of hip-hop pastiche. “If you ever leave/ Then I’ll have to give up everything that I believe,” Maya sings, perhaps referencing ex-fiance Benjamin Bronfman, before concluding, “Here’s a mixtape that I made, let’s take a break.” The song may be built from familiar components, but it doesn’t quite sound like anything else.

In other intimate M.I.A. news, she says that personal-looking documentary she previewed last month has “started back up.” Her new album Matangi is due out Nov. 5.

Previously
This M.I.A. Doc Looks Like It Deserves a Release
M.I.A. Brings the “Noize” in Her New Song

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.