Under Review: M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\

I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of.  After two albums of creative and challenging electro-rap-dance-pop-whatever, M.I.A. has finally ruptured my fandom.  I know that losing one fan might not be that big of a deal to a global icon of the arts, but the complete mess that is her new album, /\/\ /\ Y /\, is sure to make many of her acolytes question their devotion.  While dropping a handful of unpromising preview tracks over the course of a few months, Maya was called out in a New York Times article for being a preachy, privileged phony.  Instead of retaliating with a smart and sassy musical retort, Maya posted the ‘offending’ reporter’s cell phone number on Twitter.  Classy.  By this point, fans and naysayers alike feared that Maya’s days as art-pop’s saving grace were numbered, and the disappointing material on /\/\ /\ Y /\ only confirms that unfortunate notion.  The album begins with a short intro, “The Message,” whose technology-centric update on “Dry Bones” is a tired reiteration of every criticism of our mediated society.  Even if Maya (or, in this case, her brother Sugu, who wrote “The Message”) is right, and the internet and all its facets are just surveillance tools of the government, the idea’s not at all original.  Speaking of unoriginality, /\/\ /\ Y /\’s most prominent sample-utilizing tracks, “Born Free” (which is based around Suicide’s “Ghost Rider”) and “Meds And Feds” (which reworks Sleigh Bells’ “Treats”), are executed to far weaker effect than, say, a particularly brilliant Clash sample.  Maya seems to favor repetition over hooks throughout the new album, and when she’s not endlessly repeating a phrase, she’s lazily slurring through dull productions like “Lovalot” and closer “Space.”

Another target of Maya’s public lashings has been Lady Gaga, who Maya apparently figures to be a toned-down version of her own self.  I can understand Maya’s being upset at another performer for copping her image, but how much credibility can she be granted when her album features potential crossovers like “XXXO” and “Tell Me Why?”  The former is not quite polished, but is clearly aimed at those who were won over by “Paper Planes’” palatable quirk.  The latter is a clattering, Auto-Tuned shamble that is delivered in an overly forced melodic whine.  No, Maya hasn’t got the best singing voice, but she had always been able to work around that by either rapping or keeping melodies within her limited range.  In trying (too hard, might I add) to reach beyond her boundaries, M.I.A. has taken her career in a direction that is bound to garner negative reactions.  Whether she takes those reactions to heart is not the important thing.  What’s important is that she realizes that no one, not even famous performers, can get away with saying and doing outlandish things if they stop delivering what their fans will enjoy hearing.  Exploring new directions is a perfectly permissible (and, indeed, expected) part of the creative process.  Trying too hard to be ‘edgy’ or ‘artsy’ or ‘confrontational,’ on the other hand, is just a crass and belligerent move for even the most agreeable artist to make.  What M.I.A. needs is some time out of the spotlight to cool off and think about what to do with her career.  Something tells me she’ll have plenty of ‘me time’ over the next few months as more and more people listen to /\/\ /\ Y /\.

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~ by E. on July 14, 2010.

One Response to “Under Review: M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\”

  1. WEB SHERIFF
    Who You Gonna Call
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
    Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080
    websheriff@websheriff.com
    http://www.websheriff.com

    Hi E.,

    On behalf of XL Recordings and M.I.A, many thanks for plugging “Maya” on your site (the newly released album by M.I.A) … .. thanks, also, on behalf of the artist and label for not posting any pirate links to unreleased (studio) material and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, then full length versions of Stepping Up and the remix of XXXO featuring Jay Z are available via the artist’s MySpace … .. for further details of the new album, on-line promotions, videos and 2010 shows, check-out the official site at http://www.miauk.com, as well as the artist’s MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/mia and YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/MIAVEVO … .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material and on-line promotions.

    Also and as a goodwill gesture to fans and bloggers, an exclusive preview stream of the full album is currently available via M.I.A’s MySpace and, similarly, a widget for the album stream shall also shortly be available from the artist’s official site … this is for hyper-linking ONLY and for streaming by fans via the artist’s site and MySpace, so please reciprocate this goodwill gesture by NOT ripping and re-posting these files.

    With Thanks & Regards,

    WEB SHERIFF

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