M.I.A. returns with her third album, the aptly titled and stylised /\/\/\Y/\. Starting off with the call out track, “The Message”, it will make you rethink your internet habits. From then it jumps into “Steppin Up”, using chainsaws in the track, continuing her unique use of sounds. Seals in “Boyz” from Kala comes to mind.
A fair departue from her past work. Almost feeling more serious, althought it still has playful tracks (“It Take a Muscle”, “It Iz What It Iz”), yet it feels more like M.I.A. has honed her craft. The production team remains fairly similar to Kala, however Rusko is added, along with Derek E. Miller of Sleigh Bells, and John Hill. Perhaps Rusko, UK dubstep producer/DJ had a hand in that.
What MAYA (/\/\/\Y/\) lacks is a track or tracks that have nods to dancehall, or soca. That being a huge aspect of Arular (“Sunshowers”, “Galang”, “Amazon”, “Fire Fire”, etc.). Kala maybe not quite as much, yet there’s still tracks that have certain world music elements (“Boyz” and Soca, “Jimmy” Bollywood/disco, “Mango Pickle Down River”, or “World Town”). Yet it still manages to be a very diverse album, from the timapni drumming of “Space”, along with spatial lyrics and dreamy soundscapes to the oriental workings of “Illygirl”.
Much credit goes to M.I.A. and her producers for doing a great job with sampling. Kala‘s “Paper Planes” exploded as what really ended up being the song of summer 2008 despite an early 2008 release as a single. Utilising The Clash’s intro to “Straight to Hell” perfectly, while making her own track. On /\/\/\Y/\, She samples Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” to make the epic track “Born Free” (Yeah I don’t wanna live for tomorrow I push my life today). “Ghost Rider” on its own is not bad, however M.I.A. makes it better. “Meds and Feds” samples fellow N.E.E.T. label mates Sleigh Bell’s track “Treats” from their recently released debut (also titled Treats) “Lovalot” samples Opal’s “I Said It”. So not only does she do a great job with sampling, she finds some good obscure artists, making it really difficult to even realise anything is being sampled. Lastly, “Tell Me Why” samples “The Last Words of Copernicus” by Alabama Sacred Harp Singers!
“It Takes a Muscle” is an excellent cover of the 1982 original version by Dutch synth artists Spectral, utilising perfect voice modulation for the title lyric.
M.I.A.’s technological side shows on this album with the opener “The Message” (nothing to do with the great old school track of the same name by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five), even if it was not written by her, as well as “Internet Connection”, and “Caps Lock” (both on the deluxe edition). Also in “XXXO” (Cause you tweeting me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone). Not musically related to the album, however her website at the moment, which usually matches her current album style theme shows this as well.
M.I.A. continues to wreak havoc on the music business, in the best possible way.