Don’t cry for me, Williamsburg: MIA NFL CYA LOL

Wholesome family entertainment, dawg! Spank it again, Madge! —Maxim

It’s fun 2 B on TV! Sue ya l8rz! J/K Madge lolz! Spank me again! I am not part of this moment!

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!”

Endnotes

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)?

M.I.A. + Beck’s: We’re not putting labels on anything.

yep art (work)

M.I.A. + G.Q. = hott pixx (SHUT UP SHEZ TOTES AN ARTWORKISTA AN THAt)

Given her “It’s not me, it’s you” response to last year’s Super Bowl hullabaloo (check back soonish for some brilliant thoughts on that whole bushel of b.s.; spoiler alert: Both sides are culpaballs), one might have the impression that M.I.A. doesn’t give a lot of thought to her participation in broad-scope, PR-driven corporate promotions.

And one might have a point there. After all, M.I.A. didn’t really exercise free will or personal choice (or responsibility or actual thought) in regards to her participation in Beck’s “Let’s get some mid-level pop stars to design our beer bottle labels” program, apparently. In fact, the whole thing was pretty much out of her hands, to hear her tell it.

[Quotes from her Spin interview on the subject cut ‘n’ pasted verbatim (M.I.A. 4 RLZ); free ‘n’ easy translation (M.I.A. 4 LOLZ) provided by a confidential source. Tough-ass, hard-hitting interrogation administered by seasoned/accredited pop music thinker Julianne Escobedo Shepherd.]

M.I.A. 4 RLZ

So how did you wind up working with Beck’s?
Things have their way. I was in India at the time doing artwork anyway, and somebody sent it to me, and it kind of fit with the theme of what I was making. And so I said yes because I felt like it was perfect.

I didn’t really peg you for a beer drinker!
I’m not too much of a beer drinker, but when I was at art school, Beck’s always sponsored shows and stuff like that. I remember it being like a beer haze, not for me, but for most of my friends.

You developed the whole label design?
Yeah, I was making that as a painting, or with those elements anyway, and I put together a version for them out of what I was making for myself at the time.

M.I.A. 4 LOLZ
I was doing this artwork anyway. I’m not really much of a beer drinker. Back in ARTWORK SCHOOL, though, it was like beer-goggles central! I mean, not for me, mind you. Hey, anyone who remembers Beck’s in the nineties wasn’t really there, nahmean? But seriously, other people drank beer and I didn’t. I said “Beck’s,” back there, right? Not “beer”? Okay.

Anyway, when Beck’s called my agent, I just sent over some artwork I was making at the time and took the check. I mean, the check didn’t taste like beer. Beer’s just gross. Wait, I said “beer,” not “Beck’s,” right? Hey, is this being recorded?

M.I.A. 4 RLZ

What are you most looking forward to having —
I’m not going to say anything controversial in this interview.

I’m not trying to ask you anything controversial, I just wanted to ask you about your art reaching a larger audience through Beck’s. Have you thought about that?
Yeah, before artists would struggle with the art and commerce thing, but now I think you have to have a certain conviction about your work and I think the canvas is irrelevant, you can put it on anything these days. As long as you’re not like, you know there are certain things I won’t agree to, but sitting down and having a drink, and having a little chat is a good thing, and that’s what people tend to do, you know. They get drunk and get together, so.

Your style is so specific artistically, and recognizable as a generational thing so it’s sort of cool to see in a more mainstream context.
Also, it’s just like, it was like five dudes [doing the] labels and it was like getting that feminist perspective. I just wanted to make something that was like, an evolution of the design stuff but still part of what I did before kind of thing.

M.I.A. 4 LOLZ
In the past, artwork vs. commerce was an issue artworkists struggled with. But now, you have to have a certain conviction about your work. Sure, you can quote me on that. What?

Anyhow, yeah, there are certain checks I wouldn’t take, of course, but Anheuser-Busch? Sure, why not? See if I can blag some of that Spuds McKenzie paper, girl. I mean, it’s not like Bud did those Swedish Bikini Team ads; the King of Beers would never pander to a male demographic with that kind of misogyny.

Oh, hey—“feminine” and “feminist” mean the same thing, right?

Plus, let’s be honest: When else am I gonna get mentioned in the same sentence as Jeff Koons, am I right? And… Lemme see that list. Hang on—Ladyhawke did one, too? And, wait; “Hard-Fi”? Who the fuck? Get my agent on the phone—this interview is over.

CONCLU$ION

I mean, not to be a dick about it or anything, but just a note to Ms. I.A.: If you’re cool to partner with a giant corporation and take a check, but get uptight afterward about the aspects of their messaging that are sexist and disrespectful, especially toward women, you might want to consider using your Beck’s fee to pay your lawyer to stop you in advance when Hooters calls.

P.S. re: M.I.A.:

Missing In Activism
Making Income Accidentally
Missed Inebriation in Academia
Multinational Incorporated Artwork
¡Motherfuckin’ IconoKlass*tic AnarKKKista!
Maker of Inflammatory (beer label) Artwork
Molotovs, Insurrection and Accounts-receivable
Moderately Interesting Artist

* …warfare! Gotcha!