M.I.A.
Maya


2.0
poor

Review

by Peter Tabakis USER (8 Reviews)
July 24th, 2010 | 18 replies | 3,996 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Maya confirms the sneaking suspicion that this pop-empress wears no clothes.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

I have good news and bad news for M.I.A. fans. The good news: 2010 has seen the release of a pretty terrific M.I.A. album. The bad news: that album is by Sleigh Bells, and it's called Treats.

Maya Arulpragasam has always been frustrating, by intention. A pop artist who wears political opinions like a penciled-in beauty mark or a weird asymmetrical hairdo, M.I.A. fancies herself a provocateur, when all we really want from her is compelling dance music. With every release, her efforts have resulted in increasingly diminished returns. Arular, her first and best album, was threatened by two interrelated flaws, her penchant for cacophony and an over-reliance on repetition. The material on Arular was so good that its flaws were elevated into the realm of novelty, and it ended up being better for them. These flaws were more pronounced on her great (yet wildly overpraised) follow-up, Kala, which contained some clunkers ("Hussel" and "Mango Pickle Down River") alongside some jaw-droppers ("Bamboo Banger," "Paper Planes," and "Boyz"). On Maya, M.I.A. has consolidated and emphasized her worst tendencies, while only intermittently offering the listener the smallest consolation of a good hook.

Lynn Hirschberg's much-discussed New York Times Magazine profile of M.I.A., unquestionably a hatchet job, still seemed to confirm the once-sneaking suspicion that Arulpragasam is intellectually vapid and artistically pretentious. Maya accomplishes the same result without Hirschberg's assistance. From the unnecessary typographical presentation of its title (///Y/), to the insipid and instantly dated references to internet culture (the iPhone, Google, and Twitter are all name-checked), Maya betrays the hopeless labor of an artist trying to construct something relevant and profound atop a foundation of sand.

Despite its self-reflexive title, Maya isn't a personal work, nor is it M.I.A.'s version of Dylan's Self Portrait, her deliberate attempt to shed fans. Instead, it sounds as if M.I.A., so emboldened by her status as critical darling, assumed any tossed-off dreck would seem better by virtue of being her dreck. Or perhaps she's just run out of ideas. Either way, there's no excuse for the six-and-a-half-minute-too-long "Teqkilla," an aimless mess that hides beneath the belches of electronic tones and a too-familiar beat. "Lovalot," which opens with the insightful lyric, "They told me this was a free country, but now it feels like a chicken factory," only gets worse from there. On "Stepping Up," M.I.A. insists "you know who I am" over the braying of power tools. Yes, Maya, we know who you are. Only this song makes us want to forget.

There are moments where Maya hints at something great, before veering off course. "Born Free" begins with the thrill of an accelerating snare beat that launches into a sample of Suicide's "Ghost Rider." All is well, until M.I.A.'s inert and overly echoed vocal enters the mix, making it the second best song named "Born Free." Its accompanying (nine minute long!) music video is, incredibly, even more obnoxious. "Meds and Feds" features a signature guitar hook by Derek Miller (of the aforementioned Sleigh Bells) as its best element, but lacks the salve of Alexis Krauss' lovely voice. Where Krause tempers Miller's aggressive riffing, M.I.A. turns the song into the aural equivalent of a root canal, without the merciful respite of Novocaine.

Maya contains one unqualified success. "XXXO," a frothy and thumping Eurodance gem, is irresistible, with a chorus that demands the confines of a dark and sweaty dance floor. By being blatantly accessible, "XXXO" ends up being the lone left-field track on an album so desperate to incite. If M.I.A really wanted to be provocative, Maya would have contained twelve tracks like "XXXO." In other words, it would have been a Robyn album.

The cover art to Maya encapsulates what's so wrong with the album itself: a shambles of uninteresting and disparate elements that not only fail to jell, but end up obscuring an artist we've come to admire. Maya is both overwrought and half-baked, at once busy and boring.



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user ratings (244)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
For Meatplow (2)
M.I.A. is missing in action....

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

Conrad Tao EMERITUS (4.5)
M.I.A. delivers her most cohesive and passionate album yet....


Comments:Add a Comment 
StreetlightRock
Emeritus
July 24th 2010



3752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So divisive, I love it! That's one of the reasons I love this album - it forces people to have an opinion; it's so throughly grounded in pop culture pastiche that it's impossible to pass up, whether you like it or not. It's so meaningless and precisely because it's so meaningless it's full to the brim with effect. Still, I disagree that it's all just second hand ideas - the production for me is superb and all it's coldly calculated to leave a mark - however vapid - on the listener. Maybe I like being abused. Still, cool review, I can more or less see exactly why people don't like it from this.

Digging: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Days Of Abandon

MUNGOLOID
July 24th 2010



4267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review, Maya will probably be the "love it or hate it" album of 2010.

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


I'm sorry, but this review is basically a culmination of the three reviews, and you take my side. Seriously, after three reviews talk about how she's a quote unquote provocateur (a word which Silveri used, and it's not as though the word is common, nor is the context it's used in original, at all.)

As well, you basically said exactly what I said and made a prolix opening statment. No, it was a synthesis of all the previous reviewers' contextual introductions. Contextual openers are fine when they're brief and slightly original, but I seriously couldn't read past this without recalling Silveri's, Tao's, or my reviews.

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


And, forgot to mention, a lot of your back-knowledge is really trivial, ie. the complaints with the album cover. That's not relevant to the album, at all.

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


Hi Enrique I lawv you. You were namedropped in Bruno and I just saw Bruno. I am smitten.

Slum
July 24th 2010



2579 Comments


Didn't you do that exact same thing bitch

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


Slum: uh huh, totes man. Plagiarism and I=lawv.
Enrique: it was just on HBO, lol. Literally the funniest movie I think I've ever seen in my life.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
July 24th 2010



3752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bitch sometimes I think you live in a room with no windows.

Is he saying something that hasn't been said before? Probably not. Does he articulate a point of view well enough that it's a decent read. Yeah. I mean I guess it's in the name but you're really uptight sometimes.

Also Bruno was the most tasteless piece of shit I've ever seen. Like, I've watched snuff films with more entertainment value.

Satellite
July 24th 2010



19816 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Didn't you do that exact same thing bitch

This. I honestly thought you were just making fun of yrself at first, Bitch.

Digging: The Menzingers - Rented World

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


Gaiz am I being too hipster for you all today?
Ugh I'm just going to go play my virtual koto.

bailar11
July 24th 2010



2433 Comments


damn. sick burn. gonna leave this thread now.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
July 24th 2010



6959 Comments


This is the best negative review so far. I pos'd.

Digging: Wild Beasts - Present Tense

ptabakis
July 24th 2010



3 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Bitch, it's an honor to be your mouthpiece.

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


I'm honored to have a mouthpiece.

bailar11
July 24th 2010



2433 Comments


im honored to have a piece to stick in your mouth

bailar11
July 24th 2010



2433 Comments


i lied im back

Bitchfork
July 24th 2010



7584 Comments


I am happy to have anything that is yours in my mouth I mean it's...

not into men.

STOP SHOUTING!
July 24th 2010



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"so emboldened by her status as critical darling" - don't think she's a critical darling at all, but nice review.



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