Album Review: M.I.A. – Maya

M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\(Maya)
Interscope: 2010

M.I.A.’s /\/\/\Y/\ (Maya) has received no shortage of media coverage. Between her debacle with the New York Times and the abysmal score of 4.4/10 bestowed upon the album by Pitchfork, the critical response has been underwhelming to say the least. Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been some positive response to her latest work, with the L.A Times, The Rolling Stones, and Spin giving very favorable reviews.

But politics aside, Maya is quite the listen. From the start the listener is showered in social commentary typical of M.I.A. Between the sampling of power tools and repetitive lyrics, Maya has plenty of energy to spare. Unfortunately, the sincerity of the political diatribe rings false when juxtaposed with the not so subtle narcissism spread throughout Maya.

That isn’t to say the album is weak. Songs like “It Iz What It Iz”, “Born Free” and “Tell Me Why” are hidden gems that manage to break free from the general mediocrity of Maya. Thanks in part to the sampling of Sleigh Bells, even “Meds and Feds” brings home the bacon with a strong reverberating beat.

The biggest problems facing M.I.A.’s latest album are problems we’ve seen before. The album is scatterbrained to say the least. On one hand there is the calm cover of “It Takes A Muscle” that belongs in a Cool Running’s soundtrack more than a M.I.A. album. Only two songs later we have the entirely different “Born Free” full of static-laden vocals and an abuse of the echo effect that would make even the most inexperienced garage band user cringe.

When it comes down to it, any individual merit of M.I.A.’s songs is quickly and efficiently defeated by the collective qualities of Maya. The sum is less than it’ parts. Yet the individual songs are still passable, some even extremely enjoyable. So get the album and take a listen. Just don’t expect a cohesive listening experience.

★★½☆☆
2.5 out of 5

2 thoughts on “Album Review: M.I.A. – Maya

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  1. @YoRap….nobody’s saying there’s something wrong with bringing attention to human rights violations. the point is that she is using half-baked political philosophies, conspiracy theories and a disingenuous concern for the third world as cultural capital that enhances her cool/hipster persona. It’s completely self-indulgent and self-righteous.

    How much of the proceeds of her album are going to benefit the Tamil/ the people of Sri Lanka? What kind of community organizing/ social programs is she a part of? I’m sorry, but she needs to pad her liberal resume with more experience than just talking sh!t on an album if she wants to be considered authentic and more than just an indie-friendly Lady Gaga.

    But I don’t really care if it’s a gimmick, as long as it sounds good. This album isn’t as bad as people are letting on. I actually like quite a few tracks (2.5 – 3/5 is about right). Either way, I still respect M.I.A as the self-anointed voice of the third world in the West.

  2. Debacle with the New York Times? There’s nothing wrong with speaking truth. Ice Cube and Chuck D would vouch for that. New York Times f**ked up.

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=18447
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/up-to-40000-civilians-died-in-sri-lanka-offensive-1897865.html

    Between 40,000 to 50,000 of her people (Tamil civilians) were killed in just a few months last year. She was right to speak up.

    To put it into perspective: –

    9/11 2,976 civilians

    2,118 civilians were killed by all sides in Afghanistan in 2008 and 1,523 in 2007, according to the UN.

    In Iraq there were 10,356 civilian deaths from coalition and insurgent attacks in 2006-08 [3yrs], according to iraqbodycount.org.

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