M.I.A. – Maya
I can’t imagine there are many people who haven’t heard of M.I.A. by now. Even if you didn’t hear her previous releases Arular and Kala, you most certainly heard her work on the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. But if by some chance you are a new listener, you might not want to start with her latest album Maya. To be fair, this is not a bad record, but it doesn’t make for a casual listen. Then again, her other releases might not either.
Overall, this is electronic music complete with buzzing synths, reverb, creative drum programming, and lots of distortion (both on the vocals as well as the instruments). The intro song is “The Message”(or the Mess Age, as alluded to in the cd cover), a pseudo-political track that is more of a chant than an actual song with the traditional verse and chorus. With lines like, “The head bone connected to the headphones, headphones connected to the iphone, iphone connected to the internet, connected to the google, connected to the government”, we are reminded that “big brother” is always watching us and ever in our midst.
“Xxxo” is definitely the radio jam of the album. It’s a danceable pop/club joint with a message much lighter in lyrical content than the majority of the record. “Born Free” – not so lighthearted – has an almost punk vibe to it (and by the way, you might want to check out the controversial video for it – not for the faint of heart, I should add). “Meds and Feds” is by far the worst track of the collection. It’s largely due to the mixing that creates an effect that your’e going deaf during certain points of the song. This was painful to listen to, in more ways than one. Thankfully, we are relieved immediately afterwards by “Tell Me Why”. As far as I’m concerned, this one is the banger here.
All in all, I like this album. M.I.A. is always fresh on the mic; that signature ethnic percussion we came to love on her previous releases is still present on most tracks; and this is still what I would consider to be electronic hiphop. But on Maya, we find M.I.A. straying away even further from the mainstream pop appeal, save a couple of songs. To be clear, M.I.A.’s sound has always been edgy. However, I think Maya may be a bit more experimental than some would care for; the album does sound noisy on a few occasions. That being said, this record definitely pushes the envelope and M.I.A. is in no present danger of being accused of having a lack of creativity. Maya may not be her best work, but nonetheless certainly worth checking out. Other key tracks: “It takes a muscle”, “TeqKilla”, and “Lovealot”.