Have You Heard About Paper Planes?

The program's director discusses his new obsession with Paper Planes, a song by musical group M.I.A. In a new series, Have You Heard About This?, director Rob Sachs explains how the song explores issues of immigration and gun violence, and how it is taking off with listeners this summer.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Now, we want to take a minute to introduce you to a new segment called Did You Hear About This? It's a time when members of our staff tell us a little about things that have caught their eyes or ears recently. Our director Rob Sachs has one. Hey, Rob.

ROB SACHS: Hey, Michel. Well, what's been catching my ear lately is the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. She's an English rapper, by the way, of Sri Lanka, and "Paper Planes" is the third single off her last album "Kala." And, although "Paper Planes" was released back in February, it just started exploding this summer because of its use in the trailer for the film the "Pineapple Express."

(Soundbite of song "Paper Planes")

M.I.A.: (Singing) I fly like paper, get high like planes. If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name. If you come around here, I make 'em all day. I get one down in a second if you wait.

MARTIN: What's that movie about?

SACHS: Well, that stars James Franco, he's the guy from "Spiderman," and Seth Rogen, the guy from "Knocked Up" and "40-Year-Old Virgin." And it's all about what happens when a pothead witnesses a murder and has to flee from the bad guys. Here's what the song sounds like in the trailer.

(Soundbite of movie trailer for "Pineapple Express")

M.I.A.: (Singing) I fly like paper, get high like planes. If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name.

Mr. SETH ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) How could he find us?

Mr. JAMES FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Heat-seeking missiles, blood hounds, foxes, barricudas.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) I'm just - I'm kind of flabbergasted when you say things like that. It's weird.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Thank you.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Not a compliment.

MARTIN: So the movie's given M.I.A. a big boost?

SACHS: Yeah. It's kind of like how "Juno" really catapulted Kimya Dawson's career, or even how this MacBook commercial helped out Israeli singer Yael Naim. And this trailer is having a similar effect on M.I.A. Since its release, the song has jumped way up on the iTunes most downloaded singles charts. Previously, it was 73. Now, it's broke into the top 20 at 18th. It's also reigned in as the number one most downloaded electronic single.

MARTIN: Can I hear a little bit more?

SACHS: Let's play a little more.

(Soundbite of song "Paper Planes")

M.I.A.: (Singing) All I wanna do is (gunshots fired), and (cash register opening) and take your money.

MARTIN: And what's up with those gunshots? Are those real gunshots?

SACHS: Yes. Those are gunshots that you hear, and the song brings up subjects ranging from immigration, to visas, and the gunshots in the chorus made it somewhat controversial when it was first released. When MTV initially aired the video, they censored the gunshots, and they were also taken out during M.I.A.'s live performance on the David Letterman show.

On her MySpace blog, she posted a message saying that she put in the gunshots because, quote, "I'm learning things about this world with you. I want you to see what happens to me." And in response to getting by censored by Letterman, she wrote, I felt like I was getting bullied on national television. But given the resurgence of the song this summer, it seems like M.I.A. is getting her due.

MARTIN: All right. Well, thanks for letting us hear about this.

SACHS: No problem, Michel.

(Soundbite of song "Paper Planes")

M.I.A.: (Singing) All I wanna do is (gunshots fired), and (cash register opening) and take your money.

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