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on 29 April 2011
When I first listened to 'Maya', M.I.A.'s third LP, I was disappointed. Too much of it sounded deliberately difficult, atonal, discordant. It seemed like a willfully backward step after the excellent 'Kala'. The only immediate tracks are the wonderful, sleek, robotic pop of 'XXXO' and the blissful closer 'Space', and in a way I wish M.I.A.'d filled the album with more commercial music, because she's very good at it. A few weeks ago I'd've given this record three stars and left it at that.

I've played 'Maya' a lot recently, though, and it definitely repays repeated listening. Tunes have emerged from amid the industrial noises and bleeps and it's worked its charms on me. There are still a few tracks which pass by without making an impact, but 'Maya' is a worthy successor to 'Kala', very different, not quite as good, but not significantly inferior. I can't wait to hear what she does next.
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If an android ever decided to travel the world and make hip-hop music, the result might be something like M.I.A.'s third album, "/\/\ /\ Y /\" (which I'm going to call "MAYA" because it's easier to type!). All that world music gets put on the backburner here -- "MAYA" is M.I.A.'s deliciously odd hip-hop wrapped in a metallic electronic shell, but somehow there are only glimpses of her colorful, eccentric style.

It opens with blurry computerized vocals rambling about iPhones and the web. That segues into electric drills, frantic beats,and M.I.A. sounding like an android dominatrix, "I light up like a genie and I blow up on this song/Aladdin; no kiddin', boy I need a rub... Basslines and cars anything fast/Know who I am, run this f***in' club!"

After that, she launches into the clubbier electropop of "XXXO", which is the sort of fun but fluffy song that they turn into lead singles. The really good stuff happens when that song ends -- hypnotic singsong raps, schizophrenic synth circuses, chilly spacey electronica, gently funky pop, powerful eruptions of booming rap and clattering drums, wild spurts of grinding rock, swipping stretches of slow electronica, and echoing galaxies of poppy rap.

It was actually kind of a sad experience to listen to "MAYA." I started out wildly excited by M.I.A.'s new electronic sound, imagining the wild, weird things she would do with those effects. But as the album played, I kept thinking over and over, "Well... that song was nice. Not great, but nice. Maybe the next one will be the awesome one.... and that song was nice too, but not great..." That pretty much applies to the whole album.

Now don't get me wrong -- M.I.A.'s musical genius shines brightly on some of these songs. "Teqkilla" is pure insane delight, and there are flickers of genius with "It Takes a Muscle" and the booming "Born Free." Her warm voice gets to both rap and sing here ("You could try to find ways to be happier/You might end up somewhere in Ethiopia/You can think big with your idea/You ain't never gonna find utopia!"), sounding alternately innocent and brashly hot-blooded.

But it feels like M.I.A. wasn't entire comfortable with all the keyboards, electronic twiddles and power tools, because in at least half these songs she doesn't really DO anything with what she has. There's an electronic beat, some reverb voice, a few sound effects... and that's it. As a result, songs like "Tell Me Why" and the clubby "It Iz What It Iz" are just typical electropop, and"Story To Be Told" is downright boring.

"MAYA" has brilliant songs here and there, but M.I.A.'s creative hip-hop seems to have taken a back seat on this one -- those flashes of genius are stuck between halfhearted electronica that just needed more musical TLC.
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on 16 July 2010
I've read a few articles recently criticising M.I.A. for contradictory and naive lyrics. Whether true or not, this doesn't spoil my enjoyment of /\/\/\Y/\ as I subscribe to the Simon Reynolds school of thought that pop music isn't poetry and that lyrics shouldn't be dissected too much. Does anyone think The Clash's debut album would have been better if Joe and Mick has sat around reading the Conservative party manifesto in detail instead of learning another chord and shouting "Repression!"? I deliberately draw the comparison with punk, as although /\/\/\Y/\ contains a couple of slices of pure pop in the catchy `XXXO' and `It Takes A Muscle', for the most part the album is abrasive and intense. `Born Free' samples Suicide and has an intro reminiscent of `Mr Self Destruct' by Nine Inch Nails. In fact there are a quite few industrial moments, Rusko producing 5 of the most atonal and bass heavy tracks, including `Steppin Up' which is sprinkled with the sounds of drills. So as should be expected from M.I.A. by now the album is a thrilling pick `n' mix of hip hop, dancehall, dubstep, dance and punk. Although I didn't expect to discover Maya is a fan of the brothers Gallagher - sample lyrics: "Standing at the station, in need of education" and "I would drink alcohol with the words to Wonderwall"!
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on 4 September 2010
Her mixtapes were fantastic, ARULA was impeccable and KALA was a treat - MAYA on the otherhand seems a lil out of place. Think cosy Christams scene with the weirdo family member banished to the snowy outdoors, forced to watch the family through a fogged window.

"let me in, i'm awesome too!"
"don't u dare look at it! continue to eat your turkey - now!... Kala?! did you hear what i just SAID!?!"

Put simply, there's something missing on this here MAYA, it's as if the magic has been replaced with something much less inspiring, namely fear or even loss of passion. Hear me out...

ARULA was brimming with beautiful madness, with lyrics that collided with bass to create a truly stunning piece of art. Her political sway was never lost in the drums and her personality was never overshadowed by the expectations of the industry. She made her stance and marked her territory with refreshing defiance, she had arrived!

KALA was a triumph with energy levels and inspiration dripping all over robotic circuitry with ridiculously deep story lines and symbolism that simply left you open mouthed with their pitch perfect delivery. The album was fun. You heard it on BOYZ you heard it on HUSTLE and most definitely heard it on MANGO PICKLE. The album gave a nod to its predecessor, took the baton and ran, making waves as it did so.

now this brings us to MAYA... don't get me wrong, the album is good - but MIA is a whole other level above merely 'good'. The album packs a punch (but then again, so does my granny) but unlike my granny MAYAs impact seems to have been swallowed in self doubt and subsequently doesn't make as much of an impact as it should have or could have done. MIA has always been on the outskirts but when Paper Planes came out, suddenly the nay-sayers became fans and MIA was embraced into the inner circle of wide spread musical acceptance. *shudder*

To me, this is why MAYA opts for shin kicks instead of dropkicks and flesh wounds instead of a down-right massacre. MAYA appears to take everything MIA stands for and sprinkles a lil sugar on it to make it an eeny weeny bit more palatable to the new comers.

I like the album but i really did struggle to listen to it from start to finish. It is painful to listen to because it's as if MIA is holding back, and biting her tongue to save herself from offending the very industry that she once stuck two fingers to. Disappointed fans may say "don't be harsh, she's in control and is going in a new direction", this may be true but when you no longer recognise the person driving this 'new' direction, then we kinda have a /\/\ajor problem, don't we?

3 stars ***
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on 6 August 2010
MAYA is simply the most intesting album I've heard this year. It is, at times, a difficult listen (lots of loud, distorted synths and drums) but this is regularly contrasted with some well produced more straightforward pop. 'Born Free' is a highlight and actually improves on the Suicide sample on which it is built. It's great that such a talented young woman is making music that challenges the anodyne nature of so much modern pop.
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on 24 March 2014
I thought this album is highly original, and drenched in creativity. It deals with very modern issues of technology and it's impacts on human relations. There are beautifully executed melodious songs with universally heartfelt sentiments, and also energetic drum beats with vibrant guitars to put some pep in your step. Also the artwork and presentation are very clever.
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on 10 July 2010
Let's face it, over the past two years we have been bombarded with generic pop with the likes of Pussycat Dolls,Lady Gaga,Beyonce,JLS,Cheryl Cole and many X Factor 'goods' being pushed down our mouths at any given interval it is indeed refreshing to have the like of Florence & The Machine,Paloma Faith and The Noisettes provide some of the best of British music last year to stride out the EN MASS USA takeover last year and indeed had some of the best albums last year too, Rihanna came into her own on her recording Rated R last year too which was beyond awesomeness.
2010 has seen somewhat of an elevation from that format and artists have gotten experimental with their sounds, we have thus far had genius albums by Gorillaz and Janelle Monae and fantastic pop recordings that outstand any contemporary view of pop with Christina Aguilera's phenomenal Bionic album(which MIA co-penned Elastic Love GENIUS!)Robyn's Body Talk and Kelis' Fleshtone managing to establish themselves apart which has transformed the unmainstream more underground style modes of production and brought to a far mainstream audience,

MIA is proudly one of the most innovative and experimental artists around and she is not afraid to speak her mind within her lyrics and darker electronic beats.Madonna did for pop(and i am thankful everyday for her The Queen Of Pop/Entertainment!P.E.R.I.O.D) what MIA has done (again extremely thankful) for Hip Hop (Jay-Z and Dizzee eat your hearts out!) by bringing a very old skool vibe and applying different physics and perspectives towards the sounds almost becoming something of a physical being itself.
Maya here is an album that shows something of MIA's first use of Industrial Electronica work that hasn't been heard on her previous recordings (Arular and Kala are well worth checking out also!) which in some ways shows the songs can be undeniably catchy through the hook of the rhythm and beat and also that blend of surrealist work almost like the photography for the album itself!

Maya can also be perceived as something as the most relevant recording for today's society as it does question our loyalties on modern technology without being critical, and it shows a journey within the electrical physics of the modern world which makes Maya not only an extremely authentic pop record but also the most needed this year.

It is confrontational but also extremely passionate which shows that this album isn't for a mass market audience but for those who love fantastic house grooves and experiMENTAl hip hop beats and for something unusual and infectious too.Madonna,The Beatles,The Rolling Stones,Bjork are some heavily HUGE artists who have had (having) their massive successes through their hugely popular recordings and also very personal masterpieces in the history of music. Here i find this is MIA's. It's an album that shows her growth as a musical personality and an artist it uses the strengths of her previous two albums and pushes the sound forward for a new dimension and it is indeed a must hear experience!

This is an album that NEEDS to be heard! 10/10
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on 30 June 2016
As always, M.I.A. with her distorted and trippy album covers. This time she comes with a collection of songs, which I would rather play on a house party, while stoned haha. And the packaging is done pretty impressively
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on 15 December 2010
I would give it a 4.5 if I could but I think I like some of these songs more than anything she's done before, even if I do love almost all her songs. I wish this album was perfect. the last 3 songs aren't good and if at least the last 3 songs were amazing (or she didn't put them on the album), it would have probably gotten 8-9 on Pitchfork. I think M.I.A is so talented and unique and I really respect her. but next time if she could make all the songs amazing. it is kind of painful to listen to but in a good way. it's actually some of the best stuff I've heard this year from anyone. I haven't heard anything like this. it's so unique and amazing. I think her next album could be really amazing. she has lots of potential and she is one of the most original artist right now. I can't wait to hear her next album. If you have any doubts you should buy this album! cause it's amazing even if the last songs aren't, the first couple ones are so good it makes up for everything else! so go buy it if you can! and I saw her in concert this year and it was life changing even if I was sick, she has such an amazing stage presence.
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on 12 February 2012
If you happened to just listen to this album with no idea of who the artist was, chances are you'd hate this. On first inspection this would sound like an abominable, tuneless racket. But then if you listened to it several times, or if you knew M.I.A. and what's she's about, this would be some of the best music ever made.

This album has a very unique sound, not even done by M.I.A. herself before. The grinding drills in Steppin Up, the distorted synths in XXXO and other sounds and themes give the album a style which makes it sound like unbearable noises. Surely the album would be terrible then? Well no, it all made me feel great, in a way that no other songs have made me feel before.

Some absolute standout tracks are XXXO which was mentioned previously, the blissful It Takes a Muscle with some very nice synths, the loud and agressive Born Free, and the relaxing and futuristic Space.

This is definetly one of the best albums of the century so far. If you don't like it at first then fine, but at least give it a second chance as it will definetly grow on you.
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