Uptown Top Ranking vs Paper Planes

Okay, this has been bugging me for a few weeks now… whenevr I listen to BBC Radio 1 they seem to play MIA’s song titled Paper Planes within half an hour of me tuning in.  Okay, I understand this is the way things go in a playlist environment, but the track itself is just a few degrees short of being good.  So to stop me muttering to myself each time I hear it I thought I’d write it all down…

MIA’s tune is certainly catchy and it is high in the UK charts right now, but it just doesn’t sound good.  Maybe it is the chorus that bugs me, the lyrics:

All I want do is
<sound of 5 gun shots>
and a
<the ding-kerchunk sound of a cash drawer opening>
and take your money.

seem to glorify gun violence and a ‘gangsta’ lifestyle.  That and the repeated line of:

I fly like paper, get high like planes

give what started as a ctachy tune an undercurrent of gun violence and drug use, covered in a sugar coating of drum beats and self-important lyrical posturing.  Maybe I’m, just getting old, but is this really as far as music has come in the last 30 years?  Musically the song could be by anyone, it is just a cookie cutter back beat repeating the worst excesses of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman ‘Music Factory’, with Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam filling the role of the ‘talent’ and adding some ‘provocative’ lyrics that sound like they were written in less time than it takes to sing the chorus.

The other problem is that for some unknown reason I always end up thinking of Althea and Donna‘s 1978 hit “Uptown Top Ranking” when I hear “Paper Planes”.  I can remember watching “Uptown Top Ranking” being performed on “Top of the Pops” back when it was originally released.  Watch the two videos, separated by 30 years of glossy video production skills, and compare the messages being promoted in both songs.  Which would you rather hear?

Although MIA’s tune may be hummable its use of lyrics that promote a destructive and irresponsible lifestyle prevent me from saying I like it.  I don’t have this problem with Althea & Donna’s track, and that bas line of theirs is infectious!


One comment

  1. Nhu · October 19, 2008

    Her first album, Arular, is way better than her latest album and it actually has substance. I think “Paper Planes”, which is off her latest album, is just an “anthem” for having a good time and I don’t like the song either.

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