I am almost exactly 10 years younger than M.I.A., but the woman makes me feel old, and with her video for “Bring Da Noize,” I have never felt older. Here Maya presents herself as Queen of The Terence Koh Loving Rave Kids, and look, I understand why this is cool, but wouldn’t it be much more pleasant to be the Queen of Three Feet of Space Between Me and Everyone Around Me? Or the Queen of Very Quiet and Clean Areas? Basically, all I was thinking watching this video was “Damn, I really don’t get the kids anymore.”
But M.I.A. does, and in a way that's not even cringy. For someone that’s appropriating trends like the Hamburglar steals Happy Meals, M.I.A. makes it all look effortless, and like she created these trends herself. I guess that’s what makes Maya so cool: she appears to give zero craps about the origins of said trends. Because, as we all know, the line goes up on the cool axis as it goes down on the craps-to-give axis.
For instance, from what I can tell from the internet, kids have been doing this God-awful seapunk thing for a while now, and everyone got all uptight about the “appropriation” of the theme when Azealia Banks made that video that looked like a Geocities website. But M.I.A wears ginormo-platform shoes, gaudy nail art, and pink hair like she crunked out of the womb like that. Ain’t. No. Thang. And everyone thinks she's genius.
So let’s take a closer look at the video over a sherry and see what a fusty old cat lady like me can learn about what’s hot these days.
The video begins with everyone on their way to a white party. So obviously this is set on New Years Eve between 1998-2002, when every party was a white party. This particular party seems to be made up mostly of brown-skinned dudes, and everyone is dressed like Bomfunk MCs impersonators. That is to say, very 90s, very “club,” and somewhat dreadlocked. I suppose there’s not very many women there, because wearing white pants when you have your menzies is a dangerous game to play, and generally friends tend to synchronize, so maybe it was just an inconvenient week for the gals.
When M.I.A. turns up at the party, it’s clear that she’s the HBIC, as the sea of white parts around her. But let’s take a second to discuss her branded “Chilli Bean” sunglasses. I had to Google them to find out more.
So basically, what we can glean from this logo is that these are not cool sunglasses. These are sunglasses I'd have found in a surf shop when I was 15 and going through my very confused skater/raver/surfer phase.
Kat and an unidentified gel and frosted-tip fan.
So what I’m learning so far is something that I already knew to be true, as above: M.I.A. + Chilli Bean Shades x No Craps = Cool.
The next big “reveal” of the video is M.I.A.’s amazing latticework hair, which I can’t believe no one has worn yet on Game of Thrones. Speaking of regal, this hairstyle pretty much trumps everything. As Queen of the Underground, M.I.A. is wearing a power shouldered white-denim jacket and a helmet of hair that would be entirely fitting on the Iron Throne.
There’s also a lot of Hindu iconography in the video, including the use of Hindu symbols. In one scene she appears with a regal third eye headdress, and then there’s the introduction of a cow to the party. This is all pretty useless for my fashion education because we’re living in a post-Gwen Stefani bindi-era where cultural appropriation is not okay. For instance, everyone shut down Selena Gomez when she tried to pull a smiliar stylistic statement, but here M.I.A. gets a free pass.
What’s really interesting though—and let’s totally go there— is the Illuminati vibe that's très chic right now (although it’s hard to know whether the Jay-Bey-Yeezus triad is responsible for this or if, paradoxically, it was Ke$ha, who seems like a bit of an Illuminati stalwart at this stage). The placement of the "om" symbool over a yin-yang suggests M.I.A. is “all seeing” which may have to do with her Queenly status in the video, but I think the Illuminati theories are both far more fun and more fashionable besides.
Next, M.I.A. goes seapunk with some pretty blinged out nail art. She's making me re-think my whole sensible-brown-bob-and-short-clear-lacquered-nails look.
Eventually, I realized that this video was just shot in Bushwick, and M.I.A. had pulled a bunch of kids off Bogart St. because I swear I’ve seen that girl in the round glasses hanging around out the front of Swallow Cafe. With one video, M.I.A. just managed to drive my rent up YET AGAIN, thanks to the sort of people who hang out down the block from my apartment on Sunday mornings asking me if I want any “party favors” when I’m on my way to the gym.
Even through all of M.I.A.’s easy cool, there’s one parallel I can’t help but draw, and that’s her skintight, all-white outfit’s likeness to Miley Cyrus. Both even have ridiculously impractical Spice Girls shoes on. So I guess the thing about fashion is that it doesn’t matter if you’re the coolest or the not coolest, it’s all the same shiz, just with a slightly different smell.
Deification is pretty hot right now, with Yeezus obviously leading the charge, followed closely—possibly to be eclipsed by—Jay’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, and there’s something very Watch The Throne-y and Kanye West-y about M.I.A.’s use of this embossed gold thing. Here she seems to be the central character in a church-like congregation. It’s hot to be a God right now. Being simply “royalty” is so 2012.
Kat at 15. Amazing.
All that being said, I suppose the greatest lesson I’ve learned from this video is that even though 28-year-old me is a giant stick-in-the-mud, 15-year-old me would have been the perfect candidate to “Bring Da Noize.”
Style Stage is an ongoing partnership between Noisey & Garnier Fructis celebrating music, hair, and style.