M.I.A.
Maya


4.5
superb

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
July 7th, 2010 | 44 replies | 7,196 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: M.I.A. delivers her most cohesive and passionate album yet.

Ever since she burst into the public consciousness with “Paper Planes,” M.I.A. has had to deal with her newfound stardom. She hasn’t exactly handled the media exposure well, what with her increasingly incoherent interviews, her Gaga-bashing, her Bieber-trashing, and her (admittedly inexcusable) tweeting Lynn Hirschberg’s cell phone number after Hirschberg wrote a none-too-flattering profile piece for the New York Times Magazine. It seems as if all this media chatter has drowned out any discussion about Maya, her eponymous third studio album. Which would be a pity, really, because no matter how interesting it may be to discuss M.I.A.'s perceived "contradictions" (as the Hirschberg piece did in great detail), the most compelling thing about Maya Arulpragasam is and always has been her art. Maya epitomizes this - at once visceral, confounding, and beautiful, it is yet another terrific album to add to M.I.A.'s catalog. It isn’t an easy listen, even by M.I.A.’s standards – the production is clattery and woozy, with samples coming and going without warning. But it trumps Arular and Kala in terms of flow – whereas those albums could sometimes feel like fractured compilation albums (remember that throwaway Timbaland track on Kala?), Maya is excellently sequenced. Listening to each song on its own isn’t nearly as satisfying as enjoying the whole album in one gloriously off-the-wall sitting.

“We’re growing up in the middle of the digital ruckus,” M.I.A. shouts on “Meds and Feds”, and who are we to argue with her? We live in a disconnected world. The Internet enables us to communicate with people all over the world while abstaining from actual human contact. Throughout Maya, M.I.A. explores the implications of this increasing dependence on technology, although her take on the subject is about as subtle as that “Revenge of the YouTubes” album cover. Opening skit “The Message” sets the tone: “Head bone connects to the neck bone/neck bone connects to the arm bone/arm bone connects to the hand bone/hand bone connects to the Internet/connects it to the Google/connects it to the government.” It’s quintessential M.I.A. – naïve, silly, blunt, and incredibly catchy.

M.I.A.’s sounds have always been more interesting than her lyrics. It’s not so much that her rebel-chic swagger isn’t appealing, but rather that sonically she is capable of pulling off the most bizarre of fusions. This is exemplified in the dizzying “Tekqilla”, a six-minute-long ode to hedonism that mixes videogame blips, found sounds, and a gloriously off-kilter pulse. All of these disparate elements mixed together can feel overwhelming at first, but when that chorus comes in and M.I.A. goes, “I got sticky-sticky-icky-icky weed/like a shot of tequila in me,” you can’t help but get lost in the delirious hook. “Tekqilla” bleeds seamlessly into the stoner rap “Lovalot”, which is bound to gain attention for its chorus, where M.I.A. stretches the line “I really love a lot” to sound suspiciously like “I really love Allah”. It’s the sort of thing that her fans call revolutionary and her detractors call a cheap gimmick. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. It is a deliberately provocative trick, for sure, but the fact that “I really love Allah” is provocative at all seems to be her point. She’s provoking us, but in the end, we’re the only ones who end up looking bad.

Elsewhere, M.I.A. waxes rhapsodic on fame and its side effects amidst jet engines and sirens in “Story To Be Told” and dabbles in clubby mainstream pop with “XXXO”. But the penultimate track on Maya, “Tell Me Why”, is something else entirely. It’s a ballad, a gorgeous one, peppered with choral samples and a campfire beat (á la Animal Collective). There’s nothing like it in M.I.A.’s catalog, and Arulpragasam sounds better than she ever has before – her voice sounds organic, even with auto-tune noticeably applied. “How come people all like the same?” she asks, pleadingly, over and over again. A call to arms as well as an anthem for disconnection, “Tell Me Why” is easily the most affecting song M.I.A. has ever written. It encapsulates everything that makes M.I.A. a compelling artist – a splash of rebellion, a bit of kitsch, and a love for adventure. What makes Maya so exciting, then, is not just that it is a fantastic album in its own right, but that it's evidence that M.I.A. isn’t running out of ideas anytime soon. If that's not exciting for the future, I don't know what is.



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user ratings (244)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Peter Tabakis (2)
Maya confirms the sneaking suspicion that this pop-empress wears no clothes....

For Meatplow (2)
M.I.A. is missing in action....

Alex Silveri EMERITUS (4.5)
Take it as it comes....


Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Comments, please. I know the review is sort of fractured, so I could use some advice. Also, as usual I need some help
with the recommendations -_- I never really know what sounds similar to what..

Album rules.

Awesomesauce
July 8th 2010



1083 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I like the review, although I think some of the fat needs to be trimmed. Gets a bit fanboyish in there at some bits too. Still good though.
I'm really not enjoying this album.

Mordecai.
July 8th 2010



8255 Comments


i would smash the shit out of MIA

conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesomesauce, thanks for the feedback. I will probably edit this a bit tomorrow.

MUNGOLOID
July 8th 2010



4266 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i would smash the shit out of MIA [2]




fromtheinside
July 8th 2010



16348 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

no one on the corner has swagger like us, swagger like, swagga- swagger like us.

Digging: Bast - Spectres

Ghostechoes
July 8th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Album rules.

conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album has been hijacking my last.fm. I think I listened to it five times in a row today.

Zizzer
July 8th 2010



915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I liked your review a lot. You should write more.

conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Zizzer, thanks
And yeah that revenge of the YouTubes cover is...ugly to put it lightly.

STOP SHOUTING!
July 8th 2010



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

review could flow a bit more, but you make some great points.

knocking on the doors of ya hummer hummer.

conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I did a bit of editing - let me know what you think. Should I trim the fat a little more?

Also, recommendations? Panda Bear and AnCo are up there mainly due to the last two tracks, and some of the fractured beats make me think of Homogenic, but I don't know what else to put..

Zizzer
July 8th 2010



915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The album art sucks, but it looks pretty cool when it's all moving like on her myspace page.

Parallels
July 8th 2010



6640 Comments


her albums are overrated imo. I never find them worth higher than a 4

conradtao
Emeritus
July 8th 2010



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sonicspeed500, have you heard Maya? It's really different from either Arular and Kala, more sonically adventurous.

Zizzer
July 8th 2010



915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"her albums are overrated imo. I never find them worth higher than a 4"


But none of the average ratings are higher than a 4 so how are they overrated?

iisblackstar
July 8th 2010



431 Comments


good review mate.. prob could join a few of these paragraphs together so if flows better and maybe cut down some of the body of it so it isnt so much of a track by track. otherwise a nice review.
might pick this up today

youresocute
July 8th 2010



40 Comments


no staff review? wow.

Parallels
July 8th 2010



6640 Comments


i meant critically.
allmusic gave Kala a 4.5 and i dont think its THAT incredible.

Parallels
July 8th 2010



6640 Comments


i meant critically.
allmusic gave Kala a 4.5 and i dont think its THAT incredible.

and ill give this a listen sometime



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