In late 2012, international megastar Rihanna performed “Diamonds” on Saturday Night Live. An odd visual aesthetic accompanied her vocals: It assembled ’90s screen savers, Myst-level computer animations, and deep-sea kitsch. The morning after Rihanna’s performance, rapper Azealia Banks rush-uploaded a music video for her song “Atlantis.” Curiously, it deployed many of the same visual allusions: brash, anachronistic graphics; waves and mermaids.
Both musicians—as webart fans and adept Tumblr users immediately noticed—were eating from the same feed. Their music videos both alluded to seapunk, an art movement created and distributed online. Seapunk’s best-known acolyte, Jerome LOL, even tweeted about the Rihanna performance.
Two decades into the Internet and the web-culture/Big Culture divide is leakier than ever. Rick Astley’s performance at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is half-a-decade ago, now; Obama’s Reddit AMA is old news. But it’s still a funny thing to see a signed musician borrow wholesale from an Internet subculture.
Which is what M.I.A. did yesterday. The self-directed video for her new song, “Double Bubble Trouble,” seems to play on a bunch of ideas already floating around parts of the Weird Design Internet. M.I.A.—a former London visual artist, already famous for her bricolage-pop—has seemed to apply her musical artistic style to a set of pre-existing ideas about the future.
The video opens as an infomercial for the 3D-printed gun. “What if you could make weapons like these—in your own home, using what’s called a three-dimensional printer?,” asks a male announcer-type. “This sounds like science fiction, but to some, it’s not so far-fetched.”