A striking intro together with a captivating chorus that harmoniously complements every line from the verse are some of the usual elements that make a song popular.
However, while elements, such as lyrics, contribute to a song’s appeal to the mass audience, elements can also serve as tools to state a singer’s opinion on relevant social matters. The song Paper Planes by singer M.I.A, for instance, uses the song’s lyrical content to attack the established systems that have become destructive for humankind
Superficially, the song infers to the absurdity of the unyielding problem of prejudice in the dominant western world. The words such as if you catch me at the border, I got visas in my name, in the first two verses of the song blatantly brings forth the most unimaginable a person can have in a in a foreign land. Particularly in the United States where immigrants are stereotypically associated to criminal activities such as terrorism, murder, violence, and illegal substance transactions.
The sound of four consecutive gunshots intertwined with a ring of a cash register and a choral of children most blatantly serves Paper Planes’ attack on the immorality of racial prejudice. The infusion of the aforementioned sound effects with the lines all I wanna do is, and take your money, the song disparages the prevalent collective neurosis that most robberies and crimes perpetrated across the United States are done by foreigners.
However, the song goes deeper than the literal meaning of the words used in its lyrics. As much as Paper Planes blatantly hints at the prejudice within American soil, it also criticizes the violence and the exploitation of human achievements such as technology to spread chaos, two destructive acts that has become rampant in modern society.
M.I.A. has stressed on such disparagement through the words no one in the corner has swagger like us, hit me on my burner, prepaid and wireless. We pack and deliver like UPS trucks, already going hell just pumping that gas.
Likewise, M.I.A’s Paper Planes also manifests an opposition against the alleged good qualities of capitalism and consumerist culture that ignores the actual human condition while tolerating war and violence.
The interwoven sounds of gunshots, singing children, and cash register ring together with the repeated verse lines express the futility of war, the degenerative tendency of the predominant practice of private enterprise, as well as psychological effects of violence on adults and children.
Unlike other songs that seek the appreciation of the general populace, the lyrical content of Paper Plains metaphorically attacks the current prevalent social norms. The only problem is that the message it aims to disseminate becomes misconstrued by the very public it wishes to reach out to.