The majority of contemporary music, including pop and rap, is traditionally considered to belong to popular culture and does not contain much value. Nevertheless, some creations of the present-day artists convey important social and political messages. “Paper Planes,” a song by a British rapper M.I.A., is an example of such creation with an explicitly political message. The song was widely discussed in the media, after winning some music awards and being nominated for Grammy in particular. Moreover, the song became more famous after it appeared as a soundtrack in two American movies, Pineapple Express and Slumdog Millionaire. Also, it attracted the attention of other celebrities, and several remakes were released.
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Generally speaking, the song comprises the issue of globalization. The image of a paper plane taken by the wind can be compared to people who leave their native countries because of different reasons and wander in search of a new home. The wind can take the planes high or drop them down. In the same way, people can get to a better place or lose everything they have.
Speaking in more detail, a deeper political context can be found in the lyrics of the song and the released video. The singer compares herself to a paper plane. In the song video, she is the embodiment of the people who left homes in search of a better fortune or had to abandon their native places and became refugees or illegal immigrants. The song and the video provide an insight into the lives of such people who came to live in the United States. M.I.A. reflects the perspectives of the poor people who came to a new country. They usually work in low-paid positions, such as selling street food or some garments. Moreover, they may get involved in criminal activities, for example, drug dealing.
Although the country where the action takes place is not mentioned directly, it is evident from the video. The opening of the video clip depicts paper planes flying in the air over the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan, which means that the location is the United States. What is curious is that the closing scene of the video also pictures paper planes flying over the Brooklyn Bridge, but there are more of them than at the beginning. It looks like a hint that the number of illegal immigrants and refugees looking for a better life in the United States is increasing. However, only a few of them can achieve anything in a new country while the majority will have to live illegally and work hard to earn their living. The work they find is also likely to be illegal because the sounds of shots throughout the song influence the perception of their life. The irony presents both in the song lyrics and the video makes us understand that the situation will probably remain unchanged and the problem will not be resolved.
On the whole, the problem of illegal migration is one of the major concerns in the United States. It is an issue that is broadly covered in the media and discussed in society. However, despite the attempts of the government, it is not regulated or controlled at the necessary level. Thus, although “Paper Planes” was released in 2007, it is still topical because the situation with illegal immigrants has not improved much.