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.