© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Paper Planes

Paper Planes


by M.I.A.


M.I.A.'s songwriting in "Paper Planes" is simple and utilitarian. She uses a basic form of rhyming couplets, and aside from a few isolated cases where she employs a kind of slant rhyme—as in "bones/bombs" and "trucks/gas"—her rhymes are pretty basic: "planes/name", "trains/game", "fame/name", "like us/wireless", etc.

There's not a great deal of complex wordplay or symbolism here, either. Aside from the song's intriguingly metaphorical opening line "I fly like paper, get high like planes", the song simply tells its story in fairly direct language. The writing's most noticeable feature might be its liberal usage of street slang—"I'm clocking that game", "Hit me on my burner prepaid wireless", etc.—which contributes to the song's edgy "gangsta" atmosphere.

As for that one metaphor, M.I.A. is clearly fond of it, since she worked it into the song's title. What does it mean, exactly, to "fly like paper, get high like planes"? What do paper planes have to do with swagger on the corner, with dreams of shooting people and taking their money? Perhaps it's a metaphor for slipping across the border; perhaps just a cliché about firing up the bong. But the song's music video suggests something a bit more interesting, with visuals of paper planes floating unnoticed through the Manhattan sky like the souls of the socially invisible immigrants working there. Maybe we're all only paper planes in the end. (Or maybe not.)

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...