Outspoken sonic collagist/"Paper Planes" sing-songer/truffle fries enthusiast M.I.A. is alleging that the Grammys ripped off a recent stage set of hers. On Twitter, she proclaimed, "IM KEEPING A STEAL LOG THIS YEAR HERE THE ONE FOR JAN / FEB >MIA $500 : GRAMMYS $5000000."
Included in the tweet was a link leading to her seizure-inducing Tumblr, which showcases a side-to-side comparison between stills from M.I.A.'s January show in Sydney, Australia, and the Bob Marley tribute at last week's Grammys. It confirms nothing more than the sharing of neon right angles — if you watch video footage, M.I.A.'s set included a green 3D box while the Grammys' backdrop was a series of 2D rectangle-within-rectangle outlines that cycled through the colors of the Jamaican flag in various patterns throughout the halfhearted Marley salute.
A caption above M.I.A.'s comparison reads, "MY IDEAS CAME FROM MY LIFE. MY SET WAS BASED ON TAMIL HINDU TEMPLE. NOT BOB MARLEY." Well, there you go: you answered you own beef through contrast, Maya. Under the image reads another message: "IF U WANNA SEE THE REAL THING OR GET IT FIRST COME TO A M.I.A SHOW!"
It's not bad advice — an M.I.A. show would be a lot more fun than watch Bruno Mars shill a Sting-inspired single of his (alongside actual Sting) to "honor" a legend — but it's bullshit. And even if it weren't bullshit, M.I.A. has no room to complain about rip-offs. Her genius has always resided in found-art synthesis, her ability to go cultural shopping from around the world and produce dazzling outfits of sound.
The Tamil-British star has dabbled in dancehall, hip-hop, favela funk socca, freestyle, reggae, dubstep, house, rave, Baltimore club and Bollywood disco, among genres. She's interpolated works by the Clash, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Suicide and Opal into her music. She's typically good at sourcing her inspiration, but her 2008 pop hit "Paper Planes" contains an uncredited reference to the chorus of Wreckx-n-Effect's "Rump Shaker" (you can hear her sing it without the machine-gun sounds and cha-chings in the non-album track "Hit That"). Additionally, her intentionally controversial video for "Born Free" owed major debut to Peter Watkins' 1971 film Punishment Park. Watkins could have looked that, cried theft and he'd have much more of a case than M.I.A. does in her Grammys claim.
And that is to say nothing about M.I.A.'s actual style, a globe-trotting mishmash of dollar-store chic and high fashion.
If anyone knows about the importance of borrowing to art, it's M.I.A. It hasn't stopped her from such hypocritical musings in the past, though, like when she called "mimic" Lady Gaga out in 2010 for copping the style of Grace Jones and Madonna, adding, "She sounds more like me than I fucking do!" M.I.A. is not exactly reliable when it comes to commentary on theft, despite her expertise.
[Image via Getty]