M.I.A. soon to be missing in action

Last Friday at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, UK rapper M.I.A. announced not once, not twice, but three times, that festival-goers were witnessing her last show ever.

Some sources had already predicted that she would be retiring to concentrate on her clothing line, which will include “bomber jackets, leggings & T-shirts,” featuring “bold bright hues & graphic prints.” (Epileptics beware.)

Oh, don’t cringe, my pretties. Remember, what’s old is new. Let’s take a brief history of fashion trends in the last ten years. In the late 90s, bell bottoms from the 70s came back, except instead of calling them “bell bottoms,” marketers named them “flares” and hoped no one would notice. Then, in the early to mid 2000s, wearing the green alligator became acceptable again, inspiring a new generation of bois and baby dykes to pop their collars. Then the much-maligned style known as “tapered jeans” became trendy again, probably because some genius decided to call them “skinny jeans.” Now we’re barreling towards the late 80s with the resurgence of aviator shades. So M.I.A. is right on time. Darling, your time is now. Full steam ahead! It’s American Apparel on LSD (or Salt n’ Pepa circa 1987.)

But wait – haven’t we seen this before? Rappers who “retire” to concentrate on convincing the masses that they not only want to buy their records but they also want to be their walking clones?

In 2003 Jay-Z announced his “retirement” at a show at Madison Square Garden, reportedly to concentrate on his clothing line.

In the comments thread of the above-linked article on Jay-Z, a prophet named “Ned” noted, “No true musician can retire, dropping music to concentrate on a goddamn clothing line.”

Wise Ned was right. In 2006 Jay-Z got tired of being a designer and returned with his ninth album Kingdom Come.

But Jay-Z only mattered to the general public. You know, all those people who bought millions of his albums and crowned him the king of hip hop.

M.I.A. matters to the People Who Truly Matter Because They Declare Themselves So and is therefore all the more important. (Don’t forget the unspoken rule of the pop culture in crowd: once an artist starts mattering to the general public and starts selling millions of records and is played on Top 40 radio, the artist loses relevance, is a “sellout,” and must be given the stink eye.)

Here are the subsets of the People Who Truly Matter Because They Declare Themselves So:

Group 1: Scenesters who can krump real good.

Group 2: Converse-wearing emo/indie kids who judge others but who don’t dance out of fear of being judged.

And of course:

Group 3: Pop culture-obsessed gays and lesbians with blogs.

Despite having her last album Kala named Album of the Year by both Rolling Stone and Blender, M.I.A. managed to retain indie credibility and thus, remained the darling of all three subsets of People Who Truly Matter Because They Declare Themselves So. In fact, I have heard first hand reports that M.I.A. actually inspired members of Group #2 to lose their inhibitions and dance around in their Chuck Taylors. I’ve even heard rumors of them cracking smiles at her shows. See, M.I.A. is magic.

So who will the hipsterati fawn over now? How can anyone fill M.I.A.’s magical puffy shoes*?

* until she tires of sewing stuff and releases another album, of course.

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