M.I.A. has worked long and hard to paint a picture of herself as a counter-cultural warrior and for the most part she’s succeeded. Even when a New York Times reporter tried to paint her into a truffle-scented corner with a story about how the “Paper Planes” was talking revolution while pigging out on bourgie snacks, M.I.A. retaliated with her own recording of the interview proving that she wasn’t the one who ordered them.
So, when we read that M.I.A. was going to be designing beer bottles we were a bit confused. Is that really the sort of thing a visionary cultural force should be doing? The answer, we decided, was yes. After all, the art-school-educated singer said she was able to make the beer company work with the art she was making, not their own agenda.
“I was making that as a painting, or with those elements anyway, and I put together a version for them out of what I was making for myself at the time,” she said.
The work she’s doing for Beck’s—the label features a yin-yang and collage-style art reminiscent of, duh, a M.I.A. record—was inspired by a trip she took to India.
“My trip to India was to kind of explore the visual arts thing a bit more and while I was there I was coming across lots of things that were inspiring,” she said “I just wanted to get there and explore it without having to be pressured about making the record, you know? But they also go together all the time — it’s really hard for me to separate the two out.”
She’s not the only one. Artists from Jack White, who did a song for Coca Cola, to Gorillaz, which designed a line for Converse, and Kanye West, who has dreamed up shoes for companies from Nike to Louis Vuitton, have lent their talents to a brand without seeming hacky.
“Before artists would struggle with the art and commerce thing, but now I think you have to have a certain conviction about your work and I think the canvas is irrelevant, you can put it on anything these days,” M.I.A. said. “As long as you’re not like, you know there are certain things I won’t agree to, but sitting down and having a drink, and having a little chat is a good thing, and that’s what people tend to do, you know. They get drunk and get together, so.”