MIA: Maya (XL)


It’s been 3 years and MIA’s been busy. She’s had a baby, an engagement to an international liquor heir, a Grammy nod and finally entrance into the US, and now she’s ready to hit us with her latest release /\/\/\Y/\.

If Kala was an homage to the many countries and cultures to which the album was recorded in, then /\/\/\Y/\ is an homage to one – the USA, computers/technology and conspiracies surrounding both.  More specifically how “Facebook and Google were created by the C.I.A. to spy on us”.

In fact, /\/\/\Y/\ is a radical departure from her typical sound moving to a disarray of technology. One thing is consistent: Maya’s rebellious, upfront lyrics and avant garde fashion.  She holds true to her exploratory and experimental ways, ditching any chance to appeal to a broader market.

With a slew of producers such as Diplo, Switch, Blaqstar, Rusko and Sleigh Bells, any other artist might’ve been overpowered by the range of styles and influences, but MIA holds her own. The record flows through dancehall, space pop, dubstep and even metal, yet is laced together with themes of sticking it to the ‘man’ as well as the pitfalls and perils of technology. The latter point, dripping with irony, as the album is trigger happy on the bleeps and bloops and general computerized noises. Even on dancehall track ‘It Takes A Muscle’, MIA’s echo-laden vocals perpetuate the robotic nature of /\/\/\Y/\. Whether that irony was intended or not, you can’t ignore the sarcasm as Maya sings “You want me to be somebody I’m really not” over the computerized R&B infused XXXO.

Even though Maya has a distinct essence that cannot be ignored, each producer triumphs in bringing their own style to the melting pot of this un-Google-able album. ‘Meds and Feds’, produced by Sleigh Bells’ Derek Miller, has the feel of the fist pumping, jam-guitar action characterized by the band. And it wouldn’t be an album released in 2010 if there wasn’t at least one dubstep track. For a tune about censorship and repression, the dirty, slithering deployment of noise that is Rusko’s dubstep is the perfect compliment on Story Told.

You won’t find any ‘Paper Plane’ or ‘Galang on this album. While /\/\/\Y/\ pushes boundaries and expands your mind, it lacks the addictive pop hooks that take you on the real trip and keep you coming back for more like a dirty junkie. Although all tracks start out promising, be warned that a few slowly lose the plot half way through, unlike Google, who is watching you right now.

Rating: 4
Listen: ‘XXXO’, ‘Lovalot’, ‘Meds and Feds’
If You Dig This, You’ll Dig: Santigold, Spank Rock, Peaches
1 The Message
2 Steppin’ Up
4 Teqkilla
5 Lovalot
6 Story Told
7 It Takes a Muscle
8 It Iz What It Iz
9 Born Free
10 Meds and Feds
11 Tell Me Why
12 Space