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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A challenging, yet exciting album.
In the past, M.I.A. had the luxury of releasing her albums quietly. Her feisty debut, Arular, was quickly devoured by fans of her prior mixtape with Diplo, Piracy Funds Terrorism, and immediately garnered overwhelming critical success... but not much else. Word of mouth caused her sophomore album, Kala, to debut at an impressive number 18 on the Billboard 200, but she...
Published on July 17, 2010 by W. E. Phillips

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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rubadubadub
If an android ever decided to travel the world and make hip-hop music, the result might be something like M.I.A.'s third album, "/\/\ /\ Y /\" (which I'm going to call "MAYA" because it's easier to type!). All that world music gets put on the backburner here -- "MAYA" is M.I.A.'s deliciously odd hip-hop wrapped in a metallic electronic shell, but somehow there are only...
Published on July 13, 2010 by E. A Solinas


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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A challenging, yet exciting album., July 17, 2010
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This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
In the past, M.I.A. had the luxury of releasing her albums quietly. Her feisty debut, Arular, was quickly devoured by fans of her prior mixtape with Diplo, Piracy Funds Terrorism, and immediately garnered overwhelming critical success... but not much else. Word of mouth caused her sophomore album, Kala, to debut at an impressive number 18 on the Billboard 200, but she still remained a relatively well-kept secret in the music world until one of the album's tracks, "Paper Planes," crept up and became the surprise mega-hit of 2008, while also almost single-handedly winning the album a gold certification from the RIAA.

Suddenly, Maya had gained commercial success to match the critical praise, which I'm sure she found incredibly hard to grapple with; all of a sudden, this outspoken, opinionated, passionate, but ultimately misunderstood artist--who was accustomed to small venues and notoriety strictly limited to the Pitchfork crowd--was being heard and watched by millions. Millions who, quite frankly, don't "get it." Millions who, although they now have a newfound desire to listen to her, don't necessarily want or have the intelligence to truly hear her. During the months leading up to the release of her third effort, her words have been twisted, her jokes have been misconstrued, her political statements have been dismissed as empty threats (or, even worse: publicity stunts), and her lyrics have been robbed of their meaning by the mainstream audiences and media. To quote a track from Arular, it seems this crowd of new fans would rather see her as "fun for the people" than "armed and equal." Even more detrimental, though, was the now infamous profile of the artist for a May issue of the New York Times Magazine, in which the author, Lynn Hirschberg, reduced Maya to a walking contradiction: a silly, hypocritical, and paranoid little Tamil girl who rambles on and on about the injustice of the recently defunct Sri Lankan Civil War that she knows nothing about (even though she lived through part of it and her father abandoned her family in order to become one of the most notable figures of the Tamil struggle, mind you), all while idly munching on truffle French fries, anxiously waiting to return to her son and wealthy fiancé at her million-dollar-plus abode.

Well, on M.I.A.'s third effort, /\/\/\Y/\, the apparently self-contradictory facets of her personality work to her benefit, ultimately creating a widely varied and exciting, yet balanced, listen. It's hard to imagine the thrashing duo of angry, loud, gritty, anarchic, and slightly hard to digest rock-inspired "Born Free" and "Meds And Feds" could be coming from the same woman who on just the track before--the wandering, sing-songy "It Iz What It Iz"--frankly states, "they all got issues, but I got a bit more." The artist herself explains it best on one of the album's highlights, the smolderding and quietly rebellious "Lovalot:" "I really love a lot, but I fight the ones that fight me." This sort of dichotomy between her aggressive, playful, Arular-esque and her more vulnerable, introspective, Kala-esque self is spread throughout. " The reggae-infused "It Takes A Muscle," one of Diplo's only contributions here, is the closest thing to a love song she has ever crafted, while the first four song chunk will satisfy anyone craving the rambunctious, adventurous Maya from her first effort.

"Steppin' Up" is the most impressive track of the bunch, and it immediately stands out as such. How could a song that begins with percussive power tools not? "Teqkilla," with its cheeky, alcohol-referencing lyrics, is also a standout. The closest thing to "Paper Planes" here, in regards to effortless catchiness, is the endearingly naïve and earnest "Tell Me Why." (If any one song from this album becomes a bonafide smash hit single, it'll be this favorite. My other guess would be the ethereal "Space," whose spacey environment is rudely--and brilliantly--interrupted by cluttered rhythms as soon as the listener becomes a bit too comfortable. "XXXO," the first official single, also has some pop appeal.) And two of the bonus tracks, the scatterbrained "Internet Connection" and the soothing, R&B-like "Caps Lock, (along with the awesome lenticular album cover), prove to be highlights and reason enough to choose the deluxe edition over the slightly cheaper standard edition.

The production on this album, handled by M.I.A. and the likes of Rusko, Switch and Blaqstaar, is simpler and more rough-around-the-edges than her past two efforts, and is much more concerned with electronic music, the internet and America, in contrast to the world travels that inspired Maya's previous world music melting pot of an album. This may turn some people off, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not as complex, layered, or textured as Arular or especially Kala, but there are still some extremely intrepid moments here, like the playground of sound Rusko builds at the end of--and throughout--"Teqkilla" and the many interest ways Maya uses auto-tune, not just to enhance her voice, but moreover, to add interesting distortion and nuance., among other aural experiments heard on this record.

To put it simply, /\/\/\Y/\ is not as polished or complex as her two previous classic, five-star albums. So is it a failure in regards to living up to the utter brilliance of her past efforts? I suppose, if you must look at it in this light. But is it a failure in regards to creating a still great, homogenous, and exciting album? Absolutely not.

This will end up being a polarizing album, for sure. Critics like Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly, and Time Magazine have already indicated that they have no clue what to make of it. But part of me thinks Maya wants it this way. Maybe this will, in one fell swoop, alienate and eradicate all the Lynn Hirschbergs in her fanbase, who don't want to see her progress, challenge herself, or leave the box they've put her in. Let's just hope she doesn't post all of their cell phone numbers on Twitter!
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rubadubadub, July 13, 2010
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
If an android ever decided to travel the world and make hip-hop music, the result might be something like M.I.A.'s third album, "/\/\ /\ Y /\" (which I'm going to call "MAYA" because it's easier to type!). All that world music gets put on the backburner here -- "MAYA" is M.I.A.'s deliciously odd hip-hop wrapped in a metallic electronic shell, but somehow there are only glimpses of her colorful, eccentric style.

It opens with blurry computerized vocals rambling about iPhones and the web. That segues into electric drills, frantic beats,and M.I.A. sounding like an android dominatrix, "I light up like a genie and I blow up on this song/Aladdin; no kiddin', boy I need a rub... Basslines and cars anything fast/Know who I am, run this f***in' club!"

After that, she launches into the clubbier electropop of "XXXO", which is the sort of fun but fluffy song that they turn into lead singles. The really good stuff happens when that song ends -- hypnotic singsong raps, schizophrenic synth circuses, chilly spacey electronica, gently funky pop, powerful eruptions of booming rap and clattering drums, wild spurts of grinding rock, swipping stretches of slow electronica, and echoing galaxies of poppy rap.

It was actually kind of a sad experience to listen to "MAYA." I started out wildly excited by M.I.A.'s new electronic sound, imagining the wild, weird things she would do with those effects. But as the album played, I kept thinking over and over, "Well... that song was nice. Not great, but nice. Maybe the next one will be the awesome one.... and that song was nice too, but not great..." That pretty much applies to the whole album.

Now don't get me wrong -- M.I.A.'s musical genius shines brightly on some of these songs. "Teqkilla" is pure insane delight, and there are flickers of genius with "It Takes a Muscle" and the booming "Born Free." Her warm voice gets to both rap and sing here ("You could try to find ways to be happier/You might end up somewhere in Ethiopia/You can think big with your idea/You ain't never gonna find utopia!"), sounding alternately innocent and brashly hot-blooded.

But it feels like M.I.A. wasn't entire comfortable with all the keyboards, electronic twiddles and power tools, because in at least half these songs she doesn't really DO anything with what she has. There's an electronic beat, some reverb voice, a few sound effects... and that's it. As a result, songs like "Tell Me Why" and the clubby "It Iz What It Iz" are just typical electropop, and"Story To Be Told" is downright boring.

"MAYA" has brilliant songs here and there, but M.I.A.'s creative hip-hop seems to have taken a back seat on this one -- those flashes of genius are stuck between halfhearted electronica that just needed more musical TLC.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's confusing but very good and unique., July 15, 2010
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
I really loved her first two albums. Very consistent in style and groove, with lots of influences wrapped up in a coherent idea. This new album is all over the place, but still interested me. "Born Free" had me hyped since I first heard it all over the net. A;png with that wild violent video. It was so punk and epic. The rest of the album is nothing like that track but I find the whole lot fitting as a whole. I think you have to to be into lots of different styles to like this album. Plus into M.I.A. altogether. The lyrics are very very good. Her British accent drives me crazy. And AutoTune works on some of these tracks better than I've ever heard.

Tracks:

The Message - Makes sense.
Steppin Up - Industrial club anthem?
XXXO - Stands up against any modern pop song around
Teqkilla - Really pumped up electro pop, Nothing like it
Lovalot - Good lyrics, ok artsy groove
Story To Be Told - eerie and worldly
It Takes a Muscle - Feel good song
It Iz What It Iz - Interesting melody but distant
Born Free - Bad ass
Meds and Feds - Harsh but good if you can stand it (headache probable)
Tell Me Why - Beautiful and epic (relief from the last track)
Space - Chill and sweet
Caps Lock - Skipped
Believer - Too mono-tone and repetitive
Internet Connection - Just cool and funky (I thought of Tom Waits)
Illygirl - Strange last track, very B-side and not good

That's enough to justify the album, every song is completely different. You can't say that with most stuff out there.

Only gripe is that these songs seem to be very hard to match live as far as I've seen online. I would see her show anytime though.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, Stunning and Visual, July 28, 2010
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
This album has created a couple "first-times" for me. First hip-hop CD I've purchased in the new decade, first M.I.A record, first time writing a review on Amazon.

After hearing "Born Free" and "Steppin' Up" a several months ago, I thought I knew what to expect from M.IA's third release. I must admit I was very much drawn to it's sound from the start. The way one is drawn by a colorful bird or a flower growing out of the pavement. What I got was something completely even more special. The songs are as different from one another and could be. There is only one constant: each song is incredible.

The album moves quickly and keeps you captivated all the way through. One of the most important aspects of this album is that it is so very different than what you hear in hip-hop music today. There's Rihanna and Lady Gaga and their 500+ knock-offs. I guess the logic is don't fix it if it ain't broken.

This album does for hip-hop what Crass did for punk. For the genre (and M.I.A), MAYA has the potential to be either one of the most iconic hip-hop records of it's time or it could be one of the genres greatest hidden gems. My respect goes out to Maya for choosing to move forward, rather than repackage the same album we've been hearing for years now.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Like-It-Or-Ignore-It Album, July 13, 2010
By 
s.t. (Philadelphia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ (Audio CD)
Relying mostly on abrasive lo-fi sounds inspired by 70's industrial groups, "/\/\/\Y/\" sounds like M.I.A. is reacting against her own newly acquired fame, and has unleashed an effort to shed the fans she has recently picked up from "Paper Planes." Willfully and almost uniformly noisy, plenty of M.I.A. fans--even longtime ones--will be disappointed with this sonic template.

Admittedly, my initial reaction to the album was that I felt underwhelmed. I was expecting a progression from the fusion experiments of "Kala", or perhaps a respectable claim to a wider audience, and so when I heard "/\/\/\Y/\", it seemed to me that our favorite Tamil provocateur just wasn't trying that hard.

Which is probably not true. This is just coming from a different moment in M.I.A.'s life. A time of isolation, of confusion, of conflicted feelings. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that her new album is more insular and homogeneous than the ones she made hopping around the world looking for collaborators. Some people might say it's all a bit one-note, but someone like me can say it works well as a mood piece, albeit one that sounds great at high volumes.

This album doesn't excite me as much as "Kala," but I still like the direction she's gone. It's not as ambitious, not as diverse, and not as energetic as her past work, but it still has plenty of good tunes, which are enjoyably rough in production.

To everyone, definitely listen to the song samples before you buy it. They'll give you a very good idea of what you're getting into. If you don't like noise or lo-fi production, don't even bother.

To the older M.I.A. fans, I say give this one a chance. It's an album I think a lot of people will dismiss immediately, but then grow to like it as time passes. Even if it's not as good as her other albums, it's worth checking out.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Backlash, August 5, 2010
By 
Douglas King (Cincinnati, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
With her first two albums, "Arular" and "Kala", MIA became a critically acclaimed artist whose multi-cultural, politically charged music was loved and well respected by fans, but still flying under the mainstream radar. All that changed when "Paper Planes" became a surprising mainstream hit, and MIA was well on her way to becoming a bona fide pop star.

And so the backlash began ... a notorious New York Times article depicted her as a phony and a hypocrite, Perez Hilton began taunting her, and her new album, "MAYA", has received mixed reviews.

"MAYA" is not MIA's best work. Neither is it a disaster. What it is is a confusing, difficult portrait of an artist who is declaring her independence. MIA clearly has no interest in being a pop star or a commodity, and with the exception of maybe "XXXO" there is not one single radio-friendly song on this album. The songs are gritty, often noisy, often angry, and rarely catchy.

Sonically, the world music influences seem to be all but absent on "MAYA", and the sound is a mixture of hard electronica, hip-hop, and heavy metal. MIA seems to be struggling: struggling to find a new sound, struggling to please both herself and her fans, struggling to reconcile her newfound fame and mainstream success with her roots as an outsider and revolutionary.

The album has been criticized for being incoherent and noisy. There's some truth in that. But even her harshest critics couldn't accuse MIA of selling out. She's still speaking her truth, whether people want to hear it or not. And that's what makes her an artist who I think will remain vital for a very long time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Backlash, August 5, 2010
By 
Douglas King (Cincinnati, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ (Audio CD)
With her first two albums, "Arular" and "Kala", MIA became a critically acclaimed artist whose multi-cultural, politically charged music was loved and well respected by fans, but still flying under the mainstream radar. All that changed when "Paper Planes" became a surprising mainstream hit, and MIA was well on her way to becoming a bona fide pop star.

And so the backlash began ... a notorious New York Times article depicted her as a phony and a hypocrite, Perez Hilton began taunting her, and her new album, "MAYA", has received mixed reviews.

"MAYA" is not MIA's best work. Neither is it a disaster. What it is is a confusing, difficult portrait of an artist who is declaring her independence. MIA clearly has no interest in being a pop star or a commodity, and with the exception of maybe "XXXO" there is not one single radio-friendly song on this album. The songs are gritty, often noisy, often angry, and rarely catchy.

Sonically, the world music influences seem to be all but absent on "MAYA", and the sound is a mixture of hard electronica, hip-hop, and heavy metal. MIA seems to be struggling: struggling to find a new sound, struggling to please both herself and her fans, struggling to reconcile her newfound fame and mainstream success with her roots as an outsider and revolutionary.

The album has been criticized for being incoherent and noisy. There's some truth in that. But even her harshest critics couldn't accuse MIA of selling out. She's still speaking her truth, whether people want to hear it or not. And that's what makes her an artist who I think will remain vital for a very long time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Album is Sinister, July 23, 2010
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
This album features blasting beats, dub influence, organized glitches, experimental choruses, and some hardcore lyrics. A lot of reviewers have bagged on M.I.A.'s newest release, but the common theme seems to be that these people can't process the experimental aspects. This is my favorite release from her yet. It is the most steady and cohesive, even though the songs branch off in several directions. Some of these tracks are a little challenging for people who like organized little radio products like Nickleback. But, if you're used to experimental music, this is the album that brings those elements into the pop arena.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Abrasive Pop!, July 18, 2010
By 
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
M.I.A returns with more of her abrasive Pop sound on her third album "Maya". Lots of the album sounds like odd crashes and clangs cut and pasted, "Teqkilla" (with a slight Banghra feel) or the Spartan "Lovalot" (on which she declares "I won't turn my cheek like I'm Ghandi/ I fight the ones that fight me.") for example, showing that motherhood and impending marriage have in no way mellowed her.

"XXXO" is one of the readily accessible songs, an upbeat catchy Techno-tinged synth-Dance number easy on the ear and unlike anything else on the album. Likewise, the catchy "It takes a muscle" is sublime Reggae with deep bass (actually a cover of a track by Dutch group Spectral Display), while "It iz what it iz" is a snaky laid-back groove as is the similar "Tell me why" (which samples the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers).

The industrial sounding "Born free" is fiery Punk sampling "Ghost rider" by Suicide, and similar is the Rocky "Meds and Feds" with gritty guitars. Dreamy and ethereal is "Space", as is the similar "Caps lock", the closest things to ballads, while the echoey "Believer" features Blaqstarr.

A few songs are rather jarring and difficult to digest ("Meds and Feds" for example), but when she's good, she truly shines.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you kidding me?, July 16, 2010
By 
Nil "nilthepill" (La Mirada. CA. USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: /\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
This album is so goooood. I immediately regretted not getting the extended version. Gonna have to get four more songs. It says Up Your Arse to the music genre establishment. Does not conform to typical spacey electro, rap or anything else out there. If you think it is electro, it is the best one of a kind electro. If you think aww she is using autotune. Listen up T pain: This is how and where you use AutoTune. In moderation and at the right places. Check out the grooves and bass lines and the flow, check out the unique delivery of vocals. There is no body else like it. Even rap delivery is better than the very good and unique Nikki Binaj. I really think she delivers on par or even better here with electro as compared to the world beats of previous two albums.

Oh, what a breath of fresh air this album is. Only one wish: Wish the Vinyl recording is much better in terms of overall clarity. No matter, though. Music comes thru loud and clear. Just keep open mind when listening and appreciate.
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/\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition]
/\/\ /\ Y /\ [Deluxe Edition] by M.I.A. (Audio CD - 2010)
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