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M.I.A - /\/\ /\ Y /\

Image For M.I.A - /\/\ /\ Y /\

Three albums and a couple of mixtapes in to her career and now people know what they’re going to get from M.I.A.. You’re going to get a bit of everything from her; a little bit of a rapper, a little bit of a singer, some twisted experimental beatsmith, a lot of a subversive would-be politico, etc, etc.

Just looking at the cover art for M.I.A.’s latest record, the Google-defying /\/\ /\ Y /\, you know what you’re getting with this album. You’re getting a high-concept hip-hop LP, lots of forward thinking and genre-testing tunes, and a hyperactive cultural identity that’s overdosed on modern media.

As such, going into_ /\/\ /\ Y /_\ there’s no longer that sense of surprise that made M.I.A.’s first two records, Arular and Kala, so exotic and interesting. We’re wise to M.I.A. now and you get the feeling that she’s run out of ways to shock us. But that’s never stopped her trying before and try she does on /\/\ /\ Y /\, throwing out all manner of stylistic curveballs at the listener.

The most notable of those curveballs is Born Free, the Suicide sampling, lyrical raging, distortion-fest that was released to online infamy with that accompanying video clip that featured ginger genocide. On paper, it’s an exciting and challenging experiment but on record it’s nigh-on unlistenable.

That’s not say that she M.I.A. doesn’t succeed in her attempts to jolt listeners because there are definitely moments on /\/\ /\ Y /\ where the outspoken UK MC pulls it off, such as with proper lead single XXXO which shows M.I.A. in full-on chameleon mode and affecting an almost pop-star sound.

Much like XXXO which shines thanks to its double-headed production touches from Rusko and Blaqstarr, the album owes its best moments to the dudes manning the decks which also includes regular M.I.A. hitmakers Switch and Diplo. It’s these producers that lay down the immaculate framework for M.I.A. to stomp around in and a lot of the beats on the record are just on fire.

Take the sprawling electronic freakout Teqkilla which twists and turns in every direction with Rusko’s signature dirty wobble or Tell Me Why with its super slick Diplo production and sample from The Alabama Sacred Harp Singers.

Elsewhere, Sleigh Bells mastermind Derek E. Miller contributes the fiery Meds And Feds which is full of clattering drum samples and shredding guitar riffs. It sounds about a thousand times better than Born Free. And just like he did with Paper Planes on Kala, Diplo may have his hands on the best track here with the languid, almost reggae-ballad It Takes A Muscle. It’s a genuinely unexpected turn even when you’ve come to expect the unexpected.

It’s because we get all these things from M.I.A. that the whole picture just doesn’t quite work right. She can do a lot of things and do those things pretty well, but her scattershot approach and desire to cram in as many influences, references and signifiers to the one place reveals means nothing is ever fully focused.

M.I.A. never quite convinces as a hipster-socialite with a militant heart, but when she can inspire some of the highlighted songs here from her collaborators and wear them well enough then /\/\ /\ Y /\ is worth the ride, bumps and all.

Comments

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MilkySheep

MilkySheep said on the 8th Jul, 2010

Great review mate. I have been looking forward to this, even though Born Free and XXXO are not all that appealing.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 8th Jul, 2010

The album is streaming in full from her Myspace; http://www.myspace.com/mia

interpolantics

interpolantics said on the 8th Jul, 2010

Listening to the stream now - liking what I'm hearing. Probably her most obscure album.

'Meds and Feds' is a definite highlight - gives me a Peaches vibe. You have gotta admit, 'XXXO' sounds frickin awesome on radio.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 8th Jul, 2010

Was killing it before I went away. I seem to skip more songs now than expected after how much I enjoyed the first few listen. Still a positive release.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 8th Jul, 2010

Listening to the stream now - liking what I'm hearing. Probably her most obscure album.

'Meds and Feds' is a definite highlight - gives me a Peaches vibe. You have gotta admit, 'XXXO' sounds frickin awesome on radio.

The bass in "Teqkilla" sounds similar to the bass in Peaches "Fuck The Pain Away".

unlachs

unlachs said on the 9th Jul, 2010

definitely looking forward to this.

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 12th Jul, 2010

Ive read some really negative reviews about this album...its growing a bit on me though

mooney88

mooney88 said on the 12th Jul, 2010

really hated this album on first release. i was so disappointed, i wanted to shoot several red heads.

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 12th Jul, 2010

Judging from Born Free and all the bad press about this album I'm going to avoid it like the plague.

Copernicus

Copernicus said on the 12th Jul, 2010



The press (judging from a few of those reviews) more than likely wanted a pop album from her and were dissapointed, and Born Free is probably the worst track off MAYA.

andy_chalmers_102

andy_chalmers_102 said on the 12th Jul, 2010

I'm not enjoying this at all. Pretty much everything that was likable about the last two albums has vanished.

grattan

grattan said on the 15th Jul, 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MROxPK18v5I&feature=player_embedded

SlowerQuieter

SlowerQuieter said on the 15th Jul, 2010

^ Watched this earlier today. Did anyone else notice Martin Rev on keyboards?

grattan

grattan said on the 15th Jul, 2010



Kinda hard to miss him he opens and closes the track in close up.

SlowerQuieter

SlowerQuieter said on the 15th Jul, 2010



I only realised it was Rev during the closing part, took me by surprise a bit. I know Suicide consented to the sample but I wasn't aware they were that heavily involved.

grattan

grattan said on the 5th Nov, 2010

MIA with the Specials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF7Ms7GWp_k&feature=player_embedded

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 5th Nov, 2010

How awesome!

Really liked this record, to be honest. Very challenging, but overall quite exciting - XXXO, Born Free, Tell Me Why and It Takes A Muscle are my favourites.