first impressions: M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\

*this first impression can be traced back to the lethal lady herself, who is currently streaming the album in full on her myspace.

this isn’t my first attempt to review M.I.A.’s highly anticipated (and from the looks of it so far, somewhat divisive) third album. a fragmented, and what turned out to be illicit, stream of the full album turned up online last month. try as I might have to ignore it and M.I.A might have to combat it, a leak was spliced together from that shitty sampling. though unfortunate, this incident at the very least serves as an apt example of one of the central conundrums that the former third world champion of agit-pop addresses on /\/\/\Y/\: the feeling that her voice and the freedom of it are being stifled by the very technology that provides their platform.

indeed, in an era where the internet allows any and everyone with something to say the means to say it, the point of the message becomes less important than the speed of its delivery. then there’s that creeping uncertainty about who actually sees your message and what they can do with it. sure, M.I.A.’s assertion that “google is connected to the government” on micro-opener “the message” may be a bit of an overstatement, but how many memes have we all seen of people being fired due to incriminating posts or photos on facebook? furthermore, how quickly was M.I.A. herself able to exact revenge on that new york times writer using twitter? /\/\/\Y/\ finds M.I.A. both literally and figuratively trying to shout over all that noise to get her message across, and it remains a message worth hearing…

if arular was M.I.A.’s coming out party and kala bore the fruit of being told to stay out, /\/\/\Y/\ evokes a feeling of forced re-confinement (apparently visa woes kept her within american borders this time around). that feeling is conveyed via the album’s crowded, claustrophobic arrangements. her voice is often buried deep within thick industrial clamor and blasts of distortion. but whatever the barriers may be – sonic, self-imposed or otherwise – M.I.A. reminds us that she was “born free” and  “runs this fucking club.”  the latter assertion pierces through power tool abrasion in the sinister chorus of “steppin’ up,” which plays like a messier missy elliot jam. elsewhere, she pledges to “fight the ones that fight me” on the brooding, bubbling “lovalot” while expressing kindred empathy with a suicide bombing widow. ironically,  this most provocative of statements comes attached to one of the quietest, most seductive tracks on the album.

the other more accessible songs on the album only further emphasize M.I.A.’s internet irritability. she plays up the pretense of social networks and text speak in current club conqueror “XXXO,” specifically how such things deprive interaction of depth and reduce people’s perceptions and expectations of each other to what they read on profiles and iPhones. indisputably the “pop” peak of the album, it perfectly vents M.I.A.’s frustration with the medium through its eloquently devastating chorus: “you want me be somebody that i’m really not.” meanwhile, dreamy closer “space” finds her disconnecting from it all and sounding almost eerily at peace with the radio silence: “the lines are down. you can’t call me.”

four paragraphs in and i haven’t even gotten to the sleigh bells sampling “meds and feds,” the doting dancehall of “it takes a muscle,” or the swooning, almost celtic-sounding “tell me why,” which may be as close to a “paper planes” singalong as this album has. this just goes to show that no matter which songs leap out to who, there will be something here that compels everyone to listen, if only once and likely several times more. love her or hate her, she’s making damn sure that people hear her. well into /\/\/\Y/\, M.I.A. states that all she’s ever wanted was her story to be told. mission accomplished maya, and here’s hoping that story is neverending, regardless of how the web tries to twist it.

/\/\/\Y/\ is out next week.

and for making it this far, here’s a cool new remix of potential single “teqkilla” with an assist from fellow self-proclaimed badass nicki minaj.

M.I.A. – teqkilla (lost my fone out wiv nicki minaj remix)


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One Response to “first impressions: M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\”

  1. on the right track: M.I.A. – tell me why « Pop That Rocks Says:

    […] has been gradually sharing her new album ///Y/ (which i’m somewhat impressed with) one song a a time for a couple months now. even with the full-length release less than a week […]

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