Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

advice

Vulture’s Career Advice for M.I.A.

Ever since Lynn Hirschberg's fateful profile, it's been a rocky road for M.I.A. Whether or not you found Hirschberg's piece fair, it's impossible to ignore that it dealt M.I.A.'s public perception — unassailable following two critically adored albums, the surprise success of "Paper Planes," and that whole performing at the Grammys with the world's biggest rap stars while nine months pregnant thing — a massive hit. For a lot of people, Hirschberg downgraded M.I.A.'s image from brazen, politically outspoken pop star who made bangers you could enjoy even if you couldn't tell Sri Lanka from Salisbury steak, to a petulant, rambly pop star who could maybe stand to spend some time with Sri Lanka's Wikipedia entry herself. And with the critical floodgates open, everything else seemed to be coming up sideways: Her recent live performances have been bashed, her ex-boyfriend has tweeted mean things about her, and even her marijuana-leaf sunglasses (see above) have been mocked.

And then there's /\/\/\Y/\, out today. Its messier, harsher sound has not done M.I.A. any favors: It's currently at a respectable 68 Metacritic score, but that includes a notable Pitchfork pan (4.4!), which dismisses /\/\/\Y/\ as "built out of digital clangs and electronic noise ... [without] signify[ing] much of anything, aside from perhaps a desire to seem confrontational and daring." Ouch! So, what's next? Why, the backlash to the backlash, of course! Here's how M.I.A. could turn this thing around.

1. Put on a good show. The recent cancellation of Hard L.A. certainly doesn't help, but that still leaves next weekend's much anticipated Hard NYC. With a buzzy, stocked lineup, it'll be widely discussed no matter what you do. But if you manage to blow everyone else away with your headlining set — and, considering no one else on the bill can touch your back catalogue, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to — the consequences will be ameliorating and manifold.

2. Point people to the good songs on your album. Because there are some! (We totally don't mind "Born Free," "XXXO," "Steppin' Up," and, depending on the quality of the weather, "It Takes a Muscle.") It's also a direct corollary to step one: A world-conquering show or two may convince people to give the album another shot. As in: "Dude, you have to hear 'Teqkilla' live."

1. Put on a good show. The recent cancellation of Hard L.A. certainly doesn't help, but that still leaves next weekend's much anticipated Hard NYC. With a buzzy, stocked lineup, it'll be widely discussed no matter what you do. But if you manage to blow everyone else away with your headlining set — and, considering no one else on the bill can touch your back catalogue, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to — the consequences will be ameliorating and manifold.

5. Keep shit-talking Lady Gaga. Remember when you said: "[My image is] not like 'Haus of Gaga' ... Me blindfolded with naked men feeding me apples and shit"? That was hilarious! More outspokenness directed at self-serious pop stars, and less about how Google is spying on us, would be fantastic.

3. Forget Jay-Z — get Rich Boy on a remix. Landing Jay for the "XXXO" remix should have been a major coup, but (despite his pronunciation of the word "metrosexual") the verse underwhelms. Seriously, is Rich Boy available? His verse on the "Paper Planes" remix — "Excuse me, let me introduce my lady/her name is Beretta, and she motherfuckin' crazy" — was awesome.

6. Remind people that even if you're not quite the profound rabble-rouser you once were thought to be, you're still more interesting to read/talk/write about than 95 percent of musicians today. This one will just take time. Maybe go away for awhile, hide out while the nation's bloggers try to come up with stuff to write about Miley Cyrus, then watch them welcome you back with open arms upon your return.

7. Under an assumed identity, begin working as a freelance journalist. Eventually, pitch a national magazine a profile of famed reporter Lynn Hirschberg. Conduct your interviews while disguised, being as sycophantic as possible, luring Hirschberg into a false sense of security. Then — and this is crucial — suggest Hirschberg order a fancy side dish. Write up the damning piece and watch the PR storm erupt, culminating in Vulture's Career Advice for Lynn Hirschberg. Will be tricky to pull off, but may just be the best move available.

Okay: Good luck, M.I.A.!

Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images