Amid all the sonic commotion, M.I.A. pauses from time to time to show a softer side
By Christopher John Farley
Like Courtney Love, Sinead OÃ¢Connor and Lady Gaga, M.I.A. makes music that revels in contradiction and controversy. M.I.A., a.k.a. Mathangi Arulpragasam, this week released her third album, whose title is a stylized rendering of her nickname, Ã¢Maya.Ã¢
The album comes in the wake of a recent New York Times magazine profile that portrayed the British-born, Sri Lankan artist as something of a phony, preaching revolution while eating truffle-flavored French fries. M.I.A. condemned the article on Twitter and said her words and actions had been twisted; the New York Times magazine subsequently appended an EditorsÃ¢ Note to the story.
So after all the talk, how is M.I.A.Ã¢s new album? Ã¢MayaÃ¢ is a determinedly varied affair, ranging from noise-rock songs like Ã¢Born FreeÃ¢ to reggae-ish pop confections such as Ã¢It Takes a Muscle.Ã¢ M.I.A. employs a range of vocal attacks, rapping, chanting, singing, talkingÃ¢whatever she can do to deliver her lyrics.
WhatÃ¢s most interesting about the album is the rhythmic invention it displays. Songs like Ã¢XXXOÃ¢ donÃ¢t fall into neat genres, and draw readily from hip-hop, techno, pop and other sources. Many pop artists, when theyÃ¢re trying to be creative, focus on melodies or lyrics. M.I.A., with collaborating producers such as Switch and Rusko, turns her attention to the foundation of her compositions, breaking them apart, like a hardhat busting concrete, and building something new on the ruins.
Ã¢Meds and FedsÃ¢ is a tangle of guitars and chanting repeated until the listener capitulates, and gives in to the beat. Other songs on the album, like Ã¢Tell Me Why,Ã¢ also get by more on ferocity than melody. But amid all the sonic commotion, M.I.A. pauses from time to time to show a softer side. The track Ã¢SpaceÃ¢ comes across as the kind of lullaby one would sing to a baby android. [courtesy: Wall Street Journal - Speak Easy]