FFWD REW

M.I.A. – // / Y /

Interscope/N.E.E.T.

Over seven years and two albums genre-jamming firestarter M.I.A. has continually walked a fine line between dishing out dancefloor-ready electro (culture) clashes and using her success as a soapbox for her passionate political beliefs. Sadly with her third full-length effort Maya — styled with slashes as seen above — the Sri Lankan scenestress has succumbed to her most ill-considered tendencies. Here the vibrant juxtapositions of Arular and Kala have been exchanged for a shambling mishmash. At times it’s willfully inaccessible at others dumbed-down and at worst incredibly annoying.

Case in point for the latter two complaints is first single “XXXO” a lusty electro-pop earworm that could easily be mistaken for a Miley Cyrus track. Not only does the song find M.I.A. trading in her trademark mumble raps for unsubtle Top 40 come-ons but it also includes a truly unfortunate lyric about “Tweetin’ me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone.” This coupled with opener “The Message”’s vague conspiracy theory toss-off that “Google is connected to the government” points to an obvious theme of Internet-age paranoia. And there’s little to back it up elsewhere other than the hazy “Lovalot”’s equally unclear references to the Taliban Barack Obama and Bob Marley.

There are moments here that work from an Afroman-esque ode to “sticky icky weed” on “Teqkilla” to the dubstep soundscape of “Story to be Told” to producer Diplo’s digging up of the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers for “Tell Me Why” but they’re few and far between. It’s impossible to get the looping samples of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” used to construct “Born Free” out of your head but again uninspired lyrics about money hoochies and haters make M.I.A. seem like little more than a modern-day Puff Daddy with better taste.

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