TV’s Most Surreal Music Performances – M.I.A on ‘Seth Meyers’
To the majority of the TV-set-owning world, she's known as the (who's that?) girl who flipped the bird during Madonna's halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVI, setting off a legal firestorm with the FCC so ridiculous you'd think she flashed her nipple on live TV in front of a billion people.
But to a much smaller subset in the know -- i.e. her followers, fans and even some of her more-honest detractors -- M.I.A. is an uncompromising artist with a knack for writing fiercely political, socially conscious (and often damn humorous) anthems masquerading as super-catchy hip-hop jams.
One such gem, the stand-out track 'Double Bubble Trouble' from 2013's 'Matangi,' showed off the patently surreal side of her humor when she brought it to the 'Late Night With Seth Meyers' stage in May 2014, turning in what at this point could be an early top contender for TV's Most Surreal Performance of 2014 (if, you know, we picked such a thing).
Standing in front of a wall bearing the scrawled Orwellian mantra "Now Is 1984," M.I.A. opened the gig surrounded by one rather off-the-wall cadre of crew members: two women standing near-motionless in gold burqas, two other bored-looking women sitting in rolling office chairs wielding pink, 3D-printer-made uzis and one rather energetic man with a buzz cut who busts out some rather berserk dance moves during the track's breakdowns and such.
And then there's the other random onstage props, which included two circular-shaped, neon-colored drones flying around the stage and two clear boxes lit up by neon lights resting on tables in front of the uzi-fied women. Huh?
M.I.A. seemed perfectly content to be the least-ridiculous looking member of a bizarre so-called band which, by the way, never featured anybody playing any sort of actual musical instruments. Forget such things as drums, bass or synths onstage; there wasn't even a sampler, drum machine or turntable in sight.
Which is not a big deal: M.I.A.'s music, like many pop stars', can simply seem to emerge from the ether during live performances without the hint of a clear sound source and it won't raise an eyebrow. The real question about her backing posse: Who are these people, and what are they doing there?
Or, more to the point: What the hell does it all mean? Your guess as is good as ours. The world may never know. Hell, we wouldn't even be surprised if M.I.A. herself never knows.
You'd think her 'Double Bubble Trouble' video (watch below), which dropped a week later, would offer a few more clues about the whole thing, but you'd be wrong; that clip is a just-as-ridiculous mish-mash of randomness, but it does go into some background on those 3D-printer-made uzis.
Uzis which, by the way, are very controversial -- 3D printers now make it possible for people to print out their own semi-automatic submachine guns at home -- but apparently they're fine for showing on TV.
Maybe M.I.A. should've just shown up at the Super Bowl brandishing a homemade uzi onstage instead of flipping the world off. She probably would've gotten in a lot less trouble with the FCC.