The lyric video isn’t exactly an ideal art form. The clips have become a common promotional tactic in recent years, but that’s gone hand to hand with the shift from downloading to streaming. Rather than give some blog a free mp3 and lose a potential sale, big-name acts have learned they can potentially get the same track covered at least four times if there’s first a “preview,” then a full-song stream, then a “lyric video,” then an old-fashioned “official video.” That lyric videos exist is at all is a master stroke of marketing.
But master strokes of marketing have the potential to go on to produce mini-masterpieces of artistry, as any student of pop (or art, or pop art … or ARTPOP? Eh, the verdict’s still out) will know. M.I.A. has at least given it a shot in her newly released lyric video for recently surfaced “Come Walk With Me,” the agit-pop provocateur’s deeply catchy embrace of traditionally unprovocative, square, “best friends” “to the end” stuff. “You ain’t gotta throw your hands in the air / ‘Cause tonight we ain’t acting like we don’t care,” she coos, obliterating the past few years of dance-pop hedonism in a thrillingly bonkers dance-pop song. The video spells those lyrics out, karaoke-style, but in a rarity for the format, it also features plenty of (animated) visuals as untamed as the song: Hindu-style deities, a man-eating lion, a guy getting smashed by a foot. You know, your predictable M.I.A. unpredictability.
All of which leaves us with little idea what to expect from upcoming album Matangi, due out November 5. M.I.A. has shared a whole host of songs in the past year. Among them: “Unbreak My Mixtape,” “Only 1 U,” “Bring the Noize, “Doobie, and “AtTENTion.” Sigh — for better or worse, she will probably also release more lyric videos.