Greatest Song At This Moment - M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes"




Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included The Ramones' "Indian Giver," R.E.M.'s "Me In Honey," and David Bowie's "Starman."

As I walked home from the grocery store, starting to strut along with "Paper Planes," I realized that this strange fixation I have for repeating songs over and over again represents an active psychological defect. I want to live in the past, firmly, without falter. This weekly column dedicated to those songs is merely the most productive means I have to live in the world these songs create for me.

I'm the same way with movies, where I have a real problem with resolution, especially concerning series finales, and especially concerning the finales of a series I've enjoyed. I came to realize that my biggest problem with Return of the Jedi was not the "childish" nature of the Ewoks or the emergence of belching jokes in Jabba's palace. My problem was the fact that this movie meant the series I loved was over. I believe I love the first volume of Kill Bill more than the second simply because if I watched Volume 1 and never continued on, the story would never end, and I would therefore never have to return to the world of the normals. I could continue to fixate and imagine and re-imagine all the possible scenarios to come.

Only recently have I come to realize I have this relationship with music. Certain songs thoroughly warp my reality, making me feel light and free and happy and sad all at once. The beautiful horror of these musical worlds is that it's gotten increasingly easy to repeat the dosage of this fantasy world - the little force field around my body generated from my headphones - that I can waste hours on only three minutes. I'm sure with vinyl I could have done this easily if not portably, and I know I replayed songs in my car's tape deck back in high school, but CD's really paved the way for near perpetual inactivity. iPods simply put the final nail in the coffin. It has become so easy to live in the imagination that I don't know why I bother with reality.

I'm not sure if my need to search for another musical "fantasy passport" has become more fueled by this weekly deadline, or if it was always there and this column acts as a published diagnosis. Whatever the reason, I seem to unconsciously hunt for some kind of life-distracting soundtrack, and that's where "Paper Planes" comes in, a song so perfectly hypnotic that it took me twenty plus listens before I realized how incredibly monotonous it is. There are basically four sets of lyrics, but each set is repeated. Twice. In a row. Not only that, but the repeated lyric sounds identical to its predecessor, like it was copied and pasted just to effectively double the play length. Then there's the chorus (doubly repetitive), which when I first heard those gun shots, I assumed I was listening to a radio edit. The song seems to be standard rap shtick, so why would it stick in my head? I'm no big fan of rap (I don't hate it, but I'm a rock guy). And I don't aspire to see this world of crime, the creation of false visas all day or even to "(dry-click revolver) Ka-CHING take your mon-aaay."

The song's just great to walk to. Listening to it while sitting still, you start to think too much about it, you start to pay attention to all the wrong things, and you come dangerously close to understanding it. But if it's simply allowed to exist as a daily soundtrack to some sort of activity, the song - with its screeching Clash sample, cheerleader-chorus and sound effects - gives you the impression that your life should be shot in slow motion and that every stupid thing you do is cool by association. Your walk home from Ralphs with bags of shredded turkey, $1.99 wheat bread and Ziplock bags suddenly feels like the opening to Reservoir Dogs. Best of all, the coolness is a secret. Nobody knows how cool you are because the effect remains your own. It's up to you to use this coolness productively--somehow--and not slip away from society completely.

And it's up to me to figure out constructive-seeming, productive-looking ways which will allow me to effectively dwell within these fictional worlds while giving off the appearance that I'm a healthy, well-balanced person who isn't wasting his time. I thought I had come up with one. As I pointed out in LAST WEEK's episode, I am amazed at what can amass hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube. I don't mean this in an "I don't get the Internets"/John McCain kind of way, but I cannot be the only person to marvel at how a collection of still photos set to a popular song has been viewed nearly a quarter million times. Some of you must also wonder what kind of person would set aside time from their day to create such a video, and for what purpose, and I may have the answer to that: they're sick, like me. Working with a song they love and dropping a bunch of pictures into iMovie is just an excuse to play the song over and over again.

I got cocky. I made one of these videos. Rather than getting a link to the official M.I.A. video for the song, or even a better-constructed tribute video, you're getting a link to mine, which I designed to get hits based solely on the appropriation of the "Paper Planes" title. To spice things up (and since the visuals don't need a link to the song, technically speaking), the visuals are comprised entirely of Megan Fox pictures, with one of the current "It" girl at her most nude carefully chosen for the thumbnail. The plan was perfect: very little thought, near instant proof of productivity, and I got to listen to the song over and over again, allowing it to further cool-up my hum-drum day. But the results have not been so great. In five days, I've garnered a little over 25 views, most of which could be attributed to confused family members who surely think I've gone pervy, or at least lazy. I was wrong to think I could harness the internet's unimaginable power for my own sorted ideals, and in doing so I've only proven my illness to be more formidable. When it all comes down to it, I'm less sad about the low view count and more upset that the video only took me 30 minutes to create - that's really only 10 more plays.

Still, I did delight in using the stranger transitions, such as "ripple," which should never be used in any other context, and I still giggle at how the picture around 2:25 syncs up with the "Third World Democracy" portion of the song, like Megan Fox is saying it right to the camera.



M.I.A.
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Written By Phillip Mottaz

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Greatest Song At This Moment - M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes"