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M.I.A.’s Wild ‘Come Walk With Me’ Lyric Video Raises the Whole Silly Medium

M.I.A., "Come Walk With Me," lyric video, 'Matangi'

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.