“Paper Planes”- M.I.A and the Illusive “Deep” Pop Artists

Sometimes pop artists surprise you. At first glance, they seem like ditzy performers who produces songs filled with sex, drugs, alcohol, and a catchy beat. Yes, these things sell, but it takes a smart pop artist to actually insert meaning into their lyrics. When I first heard Paper Planes by M.I.A, I thought it was just another song about drug use. With the lyrics “high like a plane” and “sticks and stones and weed,” my prediction didn’t seem too far off. But then I analysed the lyrics a bit more and discovered a whole different meaning. So here are a few key lines that really stood out to me and my (perhaps wrong) interpretation.

“If you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name./If you come around here, I make em all day/I get one done in a second if you wait”- Immigration policy anyone? Fake visas  being sold all day long?

“All I wanna do is/And a, and take your money”- It sounds like the stereotype some people have about immigrants–that they are just here to take “American’s” jobs.

“Sticks and stones and weed and bombs”-Yes, they can all be names for drugs but they can also be illegal trade items aka weapons and drugs.

I don’t know about you, but these topics seem vastly different from the pop songs about meeting a hot girl at the club. Yes, “Paper Planes” has a catchy beat, but in my opinion it rises above other conventional pop songs by including controversial topics that make the listener think about today’s society.

The video just highlights the dual nature of the song. Yes, she is passing out joint shaped sandwiches but they can also be interpreted as weapons (ie bombs). And the fragile black paper planes can easily be seen as a metaphor for an actual air battle. So much meaning in such a great pop song. I wish more pop artists would attempt this level of meaning and symbolism in more of their songs.

And no Rebecca Black, you do not count as a “deep” pop artist no matter if you say your songs are about consumerism or the “broken promises to a generation in the current economic climate.” At least you can make fun of yourself.

Friday Lyrics Analyzed with Rebecca Black

Have you found a song that has a deeper meaning the more you listen to and analysis the song?

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Filed under Alternative, Hip-Hop, M.I.A

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