Mostly, the Video of the Year nominees for the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards make sense: Gotye, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Drake. All good clips, all big hits, all that jazz.
But then you look at the fifth nominee, and… oops. Where did M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” come from? Released in January as the lead single from M.I.A.’s upcoming fourth album, the song was a massive flop, failing to reach the Hot 100. And remember that in February, M.I.A. was getting all that attention for flipping off the Super Bowl. Even with all that scrutiny, her new single couldn’t make an impact.
That’s not to say the song is bad—it’s a decent slice of hip-hop swagger that mixes menacing beats with Bollywood sounds—but its failure suggests that M.I.A.’s paper plane has crashed and burned.
But then again, the VMAs aren’t necessarily a popularity contest. Video of the Year, especially, should recognize quality work, not total chart positions. So is the “Bad Girls” video a mind-blowing treat?
Um… sort of? This clip is certainly polished. It’s beautifully shot and edited, like a desert action movie with Bollywood dance breaks. And there is that one amazing scene around 2:04 where a car is racing through the desert with two wheels in the air… and M.I.A. is just chilling on the passenger door, sprawled out like her ride will never hit the ground. And I guess there’s supposed to be some kind of political message here, what with all the images of military violence and women with machine guns. But vague political undertones don’t automatically elevate a video to Great Art.
Ultimately, I just don’t see it. Compared to the other nominees—the elegant”Wide Awake,” the emotionally epic “We Found Love,” the stark and beautiful “Take Care,” and the innovative “Somebody That I Used to Know”—”Bad Girls” doesn’t have much spark. It’s just a very good version of a concept we’ve all seen before. Why “Bad Girls” and not, say, “We Are Young” by fun., which uses those slo-mo effects so well? Or even “Call Me Maybe,” which is so funny and features that hot gay guy?
What do you think? What am I missing here?
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. He recently re-watched the 1995 VMAs with his friend Joe, which is the one where Courtney Love crashed Madonna’s interview with Kurt Loder.