released July 13th, 2010
from the album - XXXO
from all music
If you read a lot about new music on the Web, odds are pretty good that, at some point between the September 2004 release of "Galang" and the March 2005 release of Arular, you were struck with the urge to turn your computer off or maybe even heave it out of a nearby window. If you don't read a lot about new music on the Web, the preceding sentence indicates how bewildering and draining the chatter about M.I.A. became. Arular, M.I.A.'s first album, leaked well before its official release, allowing journalists and downloaders plenty of time to dissect it and bat ideas back and forth — taking in the sounds, words, and absolutely all of the context — before average music fans were able to develop their own opinions.
Maya Arulpragasam spent the early years of her life in a number of places. She moved from London, England, to her parents' native Sri Lanka at the age of six months, only to relocate to Madras, India. During a return stay in Sri Lanka, the civil war taking place within the country escalated to the point where Arulpragasam began to lose family members and friends. She didn't see her father — a devout and active separatist as part of the Tamil rebellion, which has clashed with the Sinhalese majority — often throughout these years, but her life stabilized once she and the rest of her family were able to make it back to London.
As a student, Arulpragasam became involved in the arts and published a monogram book of her paintings — titled M.I.A. and heavily influenced by the Tamil rebellion. She later connected with Elastica, providing the photography and graphics for the group's second album, and she shot footage during their American tour. Elastica's support act, Peaches, introduced her to the Roland MC-505, a sequencer she became familiar with after returning home. Steve Mackey (Pulp) and Ross Orton became involved after hearing a demo; they made adjustments to "Galang," a song that was then pressed into 500 copies and released, under the name M.I.A., by the Showbiz label. It didn't take long for the song — a bold, righteous amalgamation of hip-hop, electro, dancehall, grime, and baile funk — to make an impact with DJs. She wound up signing a contract with XL, which re-released the single and, eventually, debut album Arular in 2005. Anticipation for the release was considerable, only heightened by the Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape she put together with DJ Diplo.
Her second album, Kala, was released in 2007 and was recorded while she spent time in numerous countries. M.I.A. produced most of its tracks with Switch; Blaqstarr, Diplo, and Timbaland also contributed. One single from the album, "Paper Planes," became a surprise hit in summer 2008 after it was used in trailers for the film Pineapple Express; it eventually reached the Top Ten. The soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire also featured M.I.A.'s music; the release featured new material from the artist and was the first disc issued on her N.E.E.T. label. /\/\/\Y/\, the third M.I.A. album, was released in 2010.
There are moments during MAYA when it seems like M.I.A.'s next move might involve walking into a laundromat, filling the dryers with bricks and silverware, pulling the fire alarm, blaring a drop-forge beat from a tinny boombox, and recording the result. Much of the singer’s third album is situated to prove, if anything, that motherhood and a comfortable living situation have not softened her. She does so with a load of mostly unorganized noise produced alongside Switch, Blaqstarr, Rusko, Diplo, John Hill, and Derek E. Miller. Clever-clever wordplay, assaultive sound effects, and ear-fatiguing beats are amplified at the expense of singalong hooks and swinging, energizing rhythms. “Steppin Up,” heavy with assorted needling drills and buzzing guitar, anchored by stilted percussion, could be a cover of a Flight of the Conchords M.I.A. parody: “I light up like a genie and I blow up on the song/Rub-a-dub a-dub dub, rub-a-dub a-dub dub/Aladdin, no kiddin’, boy I need a rub.” Sift through the stray wheezing, piercing, and squawking of “Tekqilla,” and you’ll hear a reference to her son’s father (the son of the heir to the Seagram’s fortune) with “When I met Seagram’s, sent Chivas down my spine.” The most willfully grating track, “Meds and Feds,” carries an oppressive industrial beat, liberally echoed handclaps, yet more cheap guitar buzz, and her most XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream-like lyrics (“While we become workers, you become golfers — the modern day coppers”). All that said, there is a brilliant — if brief — EP in here. “Born Free,” owing much to Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” is, nonetheless, one of M.I.A.'s most creative, instantly satisfying songs. It rapidly works itself into a blitz of relentless drums, prodding keyboards, and a vocal that is elatedly baleful and anthemic. “Lovalot,” a sinister production, is made all the more riveting with M.I.A.'s droning, slippery delivery, in which “Obama” can be heard as “a bomber” and “love a lot” can be heard as “love Allah.” While it is the quietest song on the album, it is also one of the most tense and unsettling of the lot, demonstrating that M.I.A. really does not need all that cluttered bluster.
1 The Message Arulpragasam, Loveridge :57
2 Steppin' Up Arulpragasam, Mercer 4:01
3 XXXO Arulpragasam ... 2:54
4 Teqkilla Arulpragasam ... 6:19
5 Lovalot Arulpragasam, Hill, Josephs ... 2:50
6 Story to Be Told Arulpragasam, Mercer 3:32
7 It Takes a Muscle Mulders, Overduin 3:00
8 It Iz What It Iz Arulpragasam 3:29
9 Born Free Arulpragasam, Rev, Vega 4:07
10 Meds and Feds Arulpragasam, Miller 3:08
11 Tell Me Why Arulpragasam, Pentz 4:10
12 Space Arulpragasam, Mercer 3:08