Friday, June 4th, 2010

MIA v. Hirschberg

And MIA wins.

Here are the details on MIA’s takedown of Hirschberg. The offending interview snippets are actually posted now on her website. Which BTW all but confirms that everything we suspected about the piece being pre-written was true.

Hirschberg’s response that MIA’s posting of their interview was “fairly unethical and infuriating” is hilarious–this from a celebrity writer. Anyone who has been in the business knows that publicists often record interviews themselves as a kind of insurance against these kinds of situations. It’s a standard practice, and if Hirschberg is upset that Maya–who showed up apparently without a publicist this time–didn’t disclose the recording to her she may have a point, but hardly a cause. It’s all fair play.

Bonus: In true 21st century TMZ fashion, the thing turns on an order of truffled french fries.

Even better is Nitsuh Abebe’s must-read “Why We Fight” piece in Pitchfork on MIA and the yokes of “authenticity” and “political art” that she needs to actually advance her work. It’s entitled “The Trouble With Maya.” I’ve followed Abebe for a long while, and I have tended not to agree with him more than I have, but there’s no doubt that he’s at the top of the game. May he be as influential as he already is important.

A snippet:

Maya Arulpragasam is not a politically sophisticated thinker. Or if she is, she doesn’t always talk like it.

In Arulpragasam’s defense, this may or may not be a bad thing. After all, people don’t need to be “sophisticated” to be right. People don’t need to be nuanced or thoughtful to say something important. (Sometimes sophistication is a way of keeping people powerless– ignoring anyone who doesn’t speak your diplomatic language.) And people definitely don’t need to be any of those things to release good music. Hirschberg isn’t much interested in the music; in that sense, the piece is like reading breaking news that Public Enemy’s politics may have been– get this– somewhat messy or incoherent. And politics is important, but so are love, sex, religion, and how we treat one another as human beings– all topics we’re often fine with pop musicians acting out in ways that are contradictory, unsubtle, or problematic. We don’t need musicians to be “right” so much as we need them to be resonant– and at least not objectionably wrong.

And in art, there are different versions of that. Being bad with politics– holding an indefensible position– can make you “wrong.” Being bad with symbols and gestures– in other words, being bad at pop– might just make you uncool or embarrassing. It’s funny: Half the praise M.I.A. gets comes from the space between those two things, which makes it kind of perfect that negative reactions to this article do, too. It’s this weird blur between whether she’s politically wrong or just embarrassing and sophomoric. Moral wrongness versus pop wrongness. So is she politically irresponsible, or fraudulent, or annoying, or none of the above?

If one measure of good artistry can be the amount of good writing it provokes, MIA is certainly the most important artist in a long while.

posted by @ 7:29 am | 0 Comments

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