167. M.I.A. – ‘Paper Planes’ (2007)

“I fly like paper get high like planes”

Taken from the album Kala

US #4, UK #19, AUS #66

In late 2007 I was in my friend’s car, and we were listening to music really, really loud, as we did “back in the day”. I knew who M.I.A. was, I’d heard about (but not heard) ‘Galang’ and a new song she was creating buzz with, ‘Paper Planes’. My friend was playing it and I vaguely remembered hearing it somewhere else, and thought it was quite amazing. When the chorus came in, “All I wanna do is *BANG BANG BANG BANG* and *KER-CHING* take ya monaaaay”… well, I was shocked, I have to say. I’m not a pearl-clutcher usually (believe me) but the gunshots just came out of nowhere. We’re used to it now but it was pretty confronting, and pretty awesome, back then.

‘Paper Planes’ is the best M.I.A. song not just for shock value but because it has one of the keenest melodies, the catchiest choruses, the best verses. The beat makes you want to put your arms out to the side of your body and do the plane dance. And you just have to make two guns with your hands and shoot them in time with the chorus. This is the best example yet of M.I.A. fully expressing her vision, matching her music to her visual art, building a message and a real work of art with her beats and her lyrics.

Not only is it the best, it’s also the most popular of all her songs. It created a truckload of critical adoration when it was released, but in late 2008 when it was used in the trailer for Pineapple Express, ‘Paper Planes’ blew up, reaching the top five in the US, something nobody ever previously dreamed of for M.I.A. It was sampled in the amazing T.I./Kanye/Jay-Z/Lil’ Wayne collaboration ‘Swagga Like Us’, opening it up to yet another audience, and suddenly M.I.A. was an underground icon breaking through to the mainstream. Her next album is one of the most anticipated of 2010, she’s seemingly on top of the world, and she has ‘Paper Planes’ to thank for it.

Music video:

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