Okay. This will be a mess, but at least it’ll be a mess with integrity; which is more than I can say for M.I.A. (at least, in this particular context) or for Noisey, the music blog/site arm of the ever-widening Vice mag firehose. Here are a few of the angles Noisey is taking on this tempest(t) in a teapot (note: bolding mine):
MIA’s importance as a cultural figure cannot be denied or argued. Unlike other self-proclaimed political artists, who claim to have an agenda beyond releasing tracks with a message that’s forgotten as soon as they’ve cashed their cheque, MIA is actively involved in humanitarian issues.
I beg to differ. I contend that her importance can be both argued—she’s not intrinsically any more important than Ke$ha (which, yes, is actually an argument, although both of these pop stars do seem to like to feel that they’re making an impact); and, since you mention it—yes, even denied. To wit: Since when have we all agreed that pop music as a commercial genre is the same thing as “culture”?
Seriously; put down the Justin Timberlake and that record by Alan Thicke’s kid and try to remember a time back when you knew how to differentiate hip from hype. Sure, M.I.A. can be a notable pop-cultural figure; why not?—but, well, you know what they say about taking the gold in the Special Olympics.
There are plenty of people out there making more interesting (and less conventional) pop music, not to mention music that’s less overtly constructed out of hit pop single tools, tropes and tricks. There are also plenty of people who less sensationally back up their political philosophies with their actions, rather than shouting from soapboxes made of Sony/Roc-A-Fella/Interscope dough before stepping behind the curtain for the part where the suits swing through to drop off the checks. [Note: Somebody call Chumbawamba and see if they still get Christmas cards from the folks in Crass.]
It’s possible that the NFL didn’t do their research. Fine; they brought in Madonna, whose long-expired edge is so blunted that it knows everyone can tell it’s SO HIGH right now DUDE JUST BE COOL OK!!! Safe as houses, right? But to be fair, there’s a chance that the intern whose bro showed him that YouTube clip with the hot Indian (or w/e!) chick didn’t dig a little deeper into the dark, iconoclastic, insurrectionista underworld in which M.I.A. resides, before shooting her name up the pipeline to the half-time show decider committee (who, everyone knows, never leave their houses and only have the Internet on their computers LOL). So, yeah; culpable? Definitely. When you hire M.I.A., you get M.I.A., even if you should have known better and done your (simple-ass) homework. Ignorance of the ignorance of the law is no excuse.
But is M.I.A. a victim here? Similarly, not at all. Maya chose to step up and play with the big kids. She signed on the line, took the check and then willingly opted to use her high-profile moment to be far-out and edgy and freak out the squares, man! And fair enough—I mean, seriously, why not take a moment in the midst of all the glitz and decadence of the Super Bowl half-time show to make a heartfelt, articulate plea on behalf of your suffering siblings—or, you know, just pull an f.u.? But to expect to walk off that Super Bowl field without an invoice clinging to your spiky heel is either profoundly delusional or absurdly naïve. M.I.A. may be the former; she’s certainly not the latter.
But it’s been a little while; let’s get back to the Noisey perspective (and yes, I fixed your dipshit punctuation, son):
And while Maya didn’t hijack the performance to promote a political agenda [OH FUCKING COME ON NOW, REALLY? THANKS FOR THAT CLARIFICATION YO BECAUSE I THOUGHT THIS WAS SINEAD O’CONNOR ON SNL ALL OVER AGAIN], it would be safe to assume that her opting to stick her finger up at the camera wasn’t a immature grasp for attention—as the NFL suggests—but rather, when caught up in the moment, a way of conveying to the largest audience possible, that yes, she “[doesn’t] give a shit.” At least not about a sporting event that grosses over $150 million while her own people are suffering as the rest of the world turns a blind eye.
Look, homes: You can’t have it both ways; either she’s innocent or she’s guilty. If you’re defending her, saying she was “caught up in the moment” diminishes her statement by defining it as a spontaneous whim. If you’re not sympathetic to her, it supports the perspective of her as an opportunistic headline-chaser. But you’re trying to work both angles—saying it was a spur-of-the-moment impulse (hey, take it easy on a gal, lawyers—we’re just playin’!) and a meaningful political statement about her suffering people (hey, can we get some of those Occupy kids to Instagram this moment or something?).
It’s Rage Against The Machine 2.0; wanting to be the spokesperson for the downtrodden via the corporate assembly line. But whether you’re a wannabe agit-pop star or a blog hack for a diluted franchise, you can’t get upset when the multinational conglomerates you’re in bed with don’t play fair. You knew who you were getting jiggy with when you took the money, honey.
(And not to “go there” and all, but yes, it’s great to procreate with a right-on, green-minded, forward-thinking hero of the people; and hey, if he’s the multimillionaire heir to a liquor and record label fortune, that doesn’t hurt either, does it? Come on, you guys—some of these suits have names and faces, okay? They’re people just like you or me! Point taken: Playing for both sides can be fun, as long as everyone sticks with your playbook.)
So, to edge toward wrapping this up: Look—if M.I.A.’s defense is that the NFL isn’t actually as family-friendly as it claims to be, or whatever, then what does that make her (rebellious, spontaneous, iconoclastic, calculated, meaningless, meaningful, on-purpose, on-the-fly) gesture? Was it a statement, somehow, about how the NFL is hypocritical in its messaging? Because if it was, then, dude: We are on—glove thrown, challenge accepted, pistols at dawn, yo. Because the NFL is some bullshit, no argument here. But if that wasn’t the point of her bold-ass middle finger, then… well, her defense is kind of more or less basically a little bit of a sorta cheap copout, right? Like, “OK, maybe I was kinda rude—but you guys were totally rude first! I’m calling it!”
Whew. Well, glad that’s ov—wait, what? Dude, 4 rlz, Chris Brown? Really? That’s the guy you bring in for a hott collabo when your NFL defense hinges on accusations of misogyny? Seriously, are you high (or just pre-emptively terrified of male hegemonic oppressions and stuff or whatever Rihanna call me OK because this guy seems totez nice but maybe he’s got a temper idk lolzzz)?