Music News

M.I.A.: /\/\/\Y/\

Arulpragasam, known to the world as hip-hop visionary M.I.A. 

Today sees the release of Arulpragasm's third album as M.I.A., the cleverly titled /\/\/\Y/\. Calling Arulpragasam controversial is akin to declaring July "pretty fucking hot" in Phoenix -- once the stark, violent video for lead single "Born Free" hit the Internet in late April,a New York Times piece featuring Arulpragasm in an unfairly harsh light was published about a month later. The story drew the rather spiteful ire of Arulpragasm, leading to the artist's tweeting the Times writer's phone number. For all this effort, M.I.A.'s latest album has finally been released, acting as the barometer for those uninformed to determine whether Arulpragasm's antics were, indeed, worth it or if they simply need go unnoticed.

What the critics are saying:

Los Angeles Times: "/\/\/\Y/\" contains plenty of agitprop verses that would have worked on her first two albums, though the music on post-punk attacks such as "Born Free" and "Meds and Feds" (the latter provided by Sleigh Bells board-cruncher Derek E. Miller) spews more shrapnel than ever before. The ugliness of certain songs comes off as a built-in defense against the more conciliatory qualities of other ones; on "Meds and Feds," Miller loops her saying, "I just give a damn," as if other tracks, like the Robyn-ish "XXXO" or the dreamy, Diplo-produced "Tell Me Why," might cause fans to think otherwise.

Entertainment Weekly: What the Sri Lanka-bred Brit isn't here is a very compelling musician. Much of MAYA sounds murky and almost punishingly discordant, as if the album has been submerged underwater and then set upon by an arsenal of exceptionally peeved power tools. The dizzy dynamism of her earlier work -- a global stew of bhangra, baile funk, and hip-hop, politicized and hitched to block-party beats -- is largely reduced to inert feedback and industrial noise.

The Guardian: A sense of alienation, of an artist attempting to create distance between herself and her audience is compounded by the preponderance of effects on MIA's voice. Her vocal style has always been a Marmite matter - for everyone who thought it the height of insouciant cool, there was someone for whom it sounded like a 14-year-old smartarse answering the teacher back - but here it's frequently distorted and Daleked into oblivion.

Pitchfork: It's not exactly a surprise that M.I.A. would opt to create such an off-putting and anti-pop album at this point in her career. She may be reaching for an interesting and provocative style, but her motives seem defensive in nature-- reasserting her artsy, agit-prop cred not long after breaking through to the mainstream and becoming engaged to the heir of the Bronfman liquor fortune. On a superficial level, /\/\/\Y/\ is a challenge, but it's really more of a retreat. She's shrinking from her chance to engage with a mainstream audience, and refusing to live up to her potential as a pop artist. One hopes that /\/\/\Y/\ is just a detour, a misstep, something she had to get out of her system before getting back on track.

/\/\/\Y/\ is out now via N.E.E.T./Interscope.

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Michael Lopez