by Imaad Majeed
To be frank, I’ve never listened to an album of hers before, and I’ve never felt the urge to do so. Like most people, I’ve heard a lot about MIA’s views on the situation in this country, and her beliefs. She’s stated many times to the media that there is an ongoing genocide in this country, that what the world is seeing is only one half of the truth. What I find sad is that the western world buys this; they seem almost willing to believe every word she utters. I’m left wondering whether or not MIA is actually sincere about any of these concerns of her.
Through all of this I wonder just where her “roots” are. She was supposedly born in Sri Lanka, and considers Jaffna her motherland. But does it come into the music at all?
She speaks quite vehemently of her homeland and her people’s cause, of the “genocide” in Sri Lanka, but where does this reflect in her music? In the booty-shaking beats? In the phat electro melodies? Perhaps in the gangsta-rapped lyrics. I’ve had a look through the lyrics, and there’s very little that’s relevant. However, it has to be said that there’s more mention and nuance than in most albums of this genre, whatever genre this would come under. I certainly can’t place it.
She’s got a comfortable life, she has a kid, and she’s got great things going for her. But, would all that come to an end if she stops riding the wave that her controversial statements have created? When you think about it, she wouldn’t be as popular as she is if it weren’t for that. Her music is, at times, good, as far as the genre is concerned. But would she have achieved the same notorious celebrity status, probably not. And I find that a little unfair, and a little sad. But oh well, at least she’s selling records!
If you’re into electronic music, and need something to dance to, then this album is for you. If you’re looking for songwriting and meaningful lyrics, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’d give this album a 7.5/10
As you click play you jump into a strange electronic soundscape with tribal beats running through the ‘The Message’, the opening track of MIA’s latest culmination ‘MAYA’. MIA loves sound effects. And that becomes quite apparent when the second track, ‘Steppin Up’, kicks off with a drill. Distorted vocals singing lyrics about having her leg humped. Drum ‘n Drill music, I would call it. The lyrics are quite typical of the genre, with a few hints at war, “sounds of a bombblast” (apparently bomb blasts sound like drills). “MIA, you know who I am”, she says, and apparently we do.
‘XXXO’ is just a little strange, with robotic voices and a catchy chorus if you’re a teenage android. This is more likely a track for Star Trek geeks, or Indi. The fourth track, ‘Teqkilla’, sounds like someone’s drumming over Facebook chat. Pop pop pop, goes the beat, and annoying video game sounds come in along with the stuttered vocals. ‘Teqkilla’ comes across as a very distraught, messy track – very strange. The song is clearly about alcohol, Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, you name it, she mentions it at some point. At 6 minutes long it seems quite ambitious, for an electronic track. MIA must take herself quite seriously.
“They told me this was a free country, but now it feels like a chicken factory”, the sheer lyrical brilliance of MIA is undeniable. And so is my sarcasm. Soft-spoken rapping in an English accent and some maracas shaking in the background, ‘Lovalot’ has all the strange electronic sounds that defines her sound. This one leans more towards the tribal sound, sounding much more chilled out than ‘Teqkilla’. ‘Lovalot’ is definitely a chill out track.
‘Story To Be Told’ has the most dumbfounding intro I’ve heard on a song to date. It sounds like a deaf person talking into a fan, no offense to deaf people. MIA’s inspiration comes to question and this point, and somehow, I don’t want the answer. This is music that might need a pinch of salt to the uninitiated.
‘It Takes A Muscle’ drops you somewhere in Jamaica as a strange reggae beat fills in as MIA mellows out with her vocals. There’s reggae riffing on a guitar that sounds like its meowing, with effects galore on this track just like every other. Once again this is a chilled out track, possibly one you’d listen to lying on a hammock. The backing vocals are a bit strange though, it might take some getting used to, this android backing singer of hers.
‘It Iz What It Iz’ is rather forgettable.
‘Born Free’ has actual drums in it, possible programmed, but who cares, real instruments! I actually didn’t mind this track too much; the lyrics aren’t rapped, which makes this quite accessible. In a strange sense the song is something like an indie-rock band gone electronic, very cool.
‘Meds and Feds’ has some electric guitar riffing, making it a rather interesting track. Strangely mixed and mastered though, with the vocals and guitars fading away for no reason at some points. ‘Meds and Feds’ is a weird song, with gangsta rapping about hookers and heavy metal wannabe guitar riffs. Something like an achcharu of Panadol and Policeman, if I were to translate it.
‘Tell Me Why’ seems like an attempt towards an anthem, it has the feel of a national anthem sung in a stadium. With electronic chants in the background and MIA actually singing, an ability I didn’t think she had, it’s a decent effort. However, overall it’s a pretty forgettable track. It seems as though MIA has lost her knack for hooks as in her mammoth hit “Paper Planes”.
More singing on ‘Space’ about gravity and stars and outer space, something about floating and space and being unable to reach her on her phone; incredibly profound. This track marks the point at which the album begins to drag.
‘Caps Lock’ is an attempt at Electro-RnB that just doesn’t quite hit the mark; you’re left with the lingering thought of whether or not to stop listening. I decided not to. ‘Believer’ is skip-able, just some rapping and the same beat over and over again. Nothing catchy, nothing interesting – just skip it. ‘Internet Connection’ doesn’t quite redeem the album, by now it’s just a matter of minutes before the album is done. Why these tracks were included is beyond me, this could’ve done pretty well with just 11 tracks.
And finally we have ‘Illygirl’. The last track sounds like an oriental videogame with MIA singing in the back, and police sirens and various sound effects wailing at the back from time to time. Typical MIA. Not too bad, considering the mediocre tracks just before it. Overall, a decent track, and alright closing track for the album.