MIA MAYA Album Art

I’ve liked /\/\/\Y/\ since it was released over the summer. It’s actually my favorite M.I.A. record, the only one I’ve listened to regularly. It’s not the record people expected — but it was the smart record to make. The backlash received its fuel (and plenty of stoking) from Lynn Hirschberg’s infamous, agenda-ridden NYTimes truffle-fry piece, continued via a condescending Pitchfork review, became par-for-the-course. (To be fair, our Premature Evaluation, one I didn’t write or agree with, wasn’t exactly in love with the record.)

Over the summer I mentioned the treatment reminded me of when Liars’ They Were Wrong, So We Drowned was released in 2004. I reviewed They Were Wrong for Playboy.com, of all places, and an editor suggested I reevaluate my positive (4 Bunny Ear) score after the record was trashed by SPIN, Rolling Stone, and got a 6.3 from Pitchfork, etc. Like /\/\/\Y/\, it was an album that signaled a major break from a previous aesthetic and a push toward something quite different — in that case, the rejection of summertime dance-punk for what became the style of Drum’s Not Dead, an album I gave a 9.0 to at P4K, a review in which I made sure to mention those earlier bad scores:

[M]y favorite detail of this feel-good story– popular Brooklyn post-punk band falls out of favor by changing directions and ultimately produces an album that eclipses its debut– is that Liars are still waltzing along on their own terms. This, their third LP, shows zero concessions to the criticisms they received from publications like Spin and Rolling Stone, who awarded They Were Wrong their lowest possible marks. Succeeding rather than regressing or retreating, Liars have had the last laugh: Drum’s Not Dead is a majestic victory lap, and on all levels, a total fucking triumph.

The major difference(s) this time is that Rolling Stone and SPIN liked /\/\/\Y/\; it’s appeared on both of their year-end lists. That, and it’s too early to tell what M.I.A. will do next, and how people will react to it, but a couple of months ago, during a staff hangout, I said we should expect a reevaluation of it sooner than later. A few days later, I started seeing tweets by folks who’d initially trashed the record saying maybe they’d been too hasty. After that, a full-on reevaluation began. I couldn’t convince everyone in these parts, which is why it didn’t make our Top 50 Of 2010 (though it did make my own Top List and Honorable Mention). Our Top 50 was built on votes and math and required more support than I could give it, but I figured I might as well give you a few reasons why the album’s better than you remember. Even if you’re not convinced, it’s a good opportunity to reiterate why it’s important to reevaluate albums beyond snap leak-week assessments.

08 Prescient (and pretty) packaging.

I still don’t get why everyone hated the cover art so much. She may go overboard with the paranoia angle, but she does have a point about the over-connected Internet culture we inhabit.

07 The chainsaw and power drill at the beginning of “Steppin’ Up,” the first proper, post intro thesis song on the album.

They signal the chopping and fractures in the pop collage that follows, sure. The chopping of that over-connectedness, too. They’re also just excellently loud. Diplo tweeted that /\/\/\Y/\ sounded “like skinny puppy,” that it “gives [him] nightmares.” This is because he’s a wimp.

06 Unlike a number of trust-fund indie rockers, the married-to-an-heir Arulpragasam’s not afraid to talk about her wealth.

She’s rich: “I don’t wanna talk about money / ’Cause I got it,” “You know who I am / I run this fuckin’ club,” etc. So what? In this way and others, /\/\/\Y/\ was one of the most honest albums of the year — she wore her heart on her designer sleeve.

05 Speaking of which … After the success of “Paper Planes,” it was punk as fuck to hand an album like this to a major label.

The path of most resistance!

04 Despite the heavy-handed video, “Born Free” is a great single.

It is also the best Suicide-sampling song to make it to Letterman complete with Martin Rev. (It’s sort of like Thurston Moore playing Harry Pussy on MTV in the ’90s, but to an even bigger audience.)

03 Speaking of using taste wisely:

She recast Dutch synth-pop group Spectral Delay’s icy, electronic ’82 tune “It Takes A Muscle” as a warm, catchy, underwater pop-reggae tune in the midst of her anti-digital manifesto. (Which reminds me: It’s tiring hearing about how M.I.A.’s the product of all these male producers …  Who cares if Switch, Blaqstarr, and Diplo came in, or if she used some Sleigh Bells guitars? On top of the Spectral Delay, another seductive pop gem “Tell Me Why” samples the fucking Alabama Sacred Harp Singers!)

02 For all the “Paper Planes” fans:

Arulpragasam shows you she can make that pop song you wanted via “XXXO” and then take it away with the weirdo “Teqkilla” and onward. (Speaking of weirdo, all the URL purchases and hard-to-reach videos shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the album, but they’re great, too, adding to the overall concept, that the shit reaches all corners. Including her entertaining Q&A’s.)

01 The biggest reason why /\/\/\Y/\’s better than you remember?

You read the bad reviews and either approached the record with prejudiced ears or didn’t listen it all. Take another (or first) listen — it’s one of the year’s more memorable releases, one I personally liked more than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (though that’s a different list entirely).

Comments (82)
  1. Illy Girl sounds a bit like Pan Sonic, another great album that was pretty much ignored.

  2. I don’t think the album deserved to get panned at all. There are a lot of memorable songs on the album and definitely some forgettable boring stuff. At first I thought the album felt incomplete and scattered, but I think thats what she was trying to do (it could also be an easy excuse for lackluster reception). If you start thinking about the total package and the expression of her idea through the artwork, music, and presentation /\/\/\Y/\ has more of an effect.

    • Maya is deliberately schizophrenic. M.I.A. was quoting saying she wanted to make the album “so uncomfortably weird and wrong that people begin to exercise their critical-thinking muscles.” A shame few understood her intent.

      • That sounds overly pretentious but then again she is and people get a kick out of it. You can only ‘exercise’ your audience’s ‘critical thinking muscles’ if your name is Miles Davis and the album you’re referring to is Bitches Brew.

    • I tend to feel the same way. The ideas presented seem to be focal point here and the music is merely just the vehicle which she uses to get those ideas across. For me, the songs are hit-and-miss musically but I do appreciate what she’s trying to say in them.

  3. I loved this album, the criticism it received was a joke. Too much hypocrisy in the industry, and a lot of Cribbing Ideas, Glad Handing and Basically Following the Leader.
    How did ALL of those reviews say bad things about a really good album… And now the reviewers are returning to say, “well, you know, we didn’t think about…” Come The Fuck On.

    How about instead of hopping on the trend that says what something Is or Isn’t or how much it Sucks or Rawks, we actually CONSIDER THE FUCKING ART AND JUDGE IT ON ITS’ CONTENT as opposed to, ya know, reading what RS and Pitchfork said and making sure we hit our marks?

    This kinda insanity is half the reason I never bothered to be a journo – so much pressure to say something untrue because someone with money tells you what to say.


    • Agreed. Your points are my points. I’ve never made it a secret that I’ve enjoyed this record. I’ve also never made it a secret that I don’t respect the journalists who caved to the backlash. It’s lame when the lemmingwave takes hold, but it does…often.

    • Its really an album you have to listen to in the right mood, and the right frame of mind, and from enough distance to appreciate. M.I.A. did not make this a pretty record and its easy to see how negative critical reception would snowball, though to be fair, it got quite a few positive reviews as well.

    • Exactly, it’s mind-boggling how easy people fall victim to groupthink. It’s like “For reals, you can’t think for yourself?” How sad.

    • Yeah, because all music reviewers read every other review on a piece of work before writing their own so everyone can judge things on the same level, because somehow dozens of critics all saying the same thing is good for business and good for art. Oh, and we all worship at the altar of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, because maybe copying what they think will make us cool. By basing everything on what they think, that’ll make us them, right?

      People act like critics are in some secret society that meets in a basement and collectively decides to shit on an album because they feel like it and it will piss people off. Have you considered that a critical perspective is simply different from a fan’s perspective, or in this case different from your perspective? Critics often listen for different things than fans, and not because they don’t like music but because they’re writing about art, and writing about art and simply enjoying art are two different things. I liked a few songs on this album, but the ones I enjoyed were the ones that weren’t making a statement or aspiring to be different, they were the ones that simply sounded pretty, and while I’ll comment on that, and most critics, given enough word count, will as well, I’ll have to keep it in a general context around the rest of the album. I’m not paid to write about songs, I’m paid to write about albums, and overall, I thought this album was not good. Don’t accuse me of joining some kind of “groupthink” session with some guys from other websites just to make you feel stupid, because no one I know who writes about music has ever done that. I, and many other music critics I know, have a strict policy against reading other reviews, and as an editor, if another writer seems to be responding to other critics’ reviews (as they’ve done here), I always tell them to either cool off or write about something else, because it’s not worth slinging mud at other people’s opinions when what you should be doing is formulating your own.

      • Actually, journalists parrot each other in masses quite regularly. It’s called sensationalism and Maya has certainly been a victim of it. For example, speaking of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, how many reviews for the album now make it a point to use the word “maximalist” to describe its scope and sound? Courtesy of Rolling Stone, of course, as they were the first major publication to review it. Another example—a majority of the negative press Maya has received somehow overlooks the music and instead focuses on M.I.A.’s love for truffle fries. All of the surrounding gossip and controversy were more interesting than the music that was supposed to be at hand, and as a result, M.I.A. had a huge bullseye on her back. Go figure. Critics follow each other all the time. Given you’re a writer, you should know better than to even try to deny the fact.

  4. My friends and I were completely dumbfounded over the hate this album received. We really loved it, maybe not as the complete album experience, but at least on a song-by-song basis. Maya seemed like something she needed to get out of her system, taking advantage of the success of Kala and Paper Planes to do something even more risque and experimental. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

  5. Whatever happened to that unreleased M.I.A. song Diplo put on his twitter?

  6. I’m confused why everyone loves it now? …personally I did think that a lot were pretty harsh on it, but on the other hand there were a lot of Crap!

    …and talking of prejudiced ears – am I the only one who wonders wether the posts before me is able to judge something by themselve or if they are just agreeing with everything that Stereogum says? – I’m just confused where all the haters went.

    (sorry for my poor English!)

  7. I agree with all of these points in theory, so the only objection I can make is in purely subjective: to me, it felt like her reach exceeded her grasp. It just didn’t feel like she was comfortable on the album. With that said, as a MIA fan I am REALLY looking forward to her next album, if she continues with this style and can grow a little more into it.

    But I wholeheartedly agree that the backlash was intense, and to anyone who says that this is a career killer…come on.

    • Yeah, true that! If this album is MIA’s They Were Wrong, then I’m pretty excited to see what her Drum’s Not Dead sounds like. I personally have been a They Were Wrong fan for a while (I saw Liars open for Radiohead and the music I remember most from that performance was from They Were Wrong, So We Drowned) but I recognize that it may not have been quite as strong as They Threw Us All in a Trench and didn’t nearly reach Liars’s potential as made evident on Drum’s Not Dead. And while I think /\/\/\Y/\ isn’t MIA’s best outing by any means (“XXXO” is alright but not nearly as intense or exciting as “Paper Planes”, “Born Free” is a solid single that makes pretty good use of a really awesome sample but comes up short to some extent in my opinion of being great, etc.) I think it may be a necessary step to a very transcendent album.

  8. Lovalot is an awesome song

  9. I think a huge aspect of the initial negative press has been overlooked, because it’s a bit of an unsavory reflection of the state of the industry and music journalism: The initial leak, which persisted for weeks, was an awful quality rip.

    I think some of the initial press for the album was written in response to low quality versions of the album. I listened to that version, which was riddled with pops and volume inconsistencies, and wasn’t impressed. I listened to a much higher fidelity version when it came out, and it made a huge difference.

    Good job revisiting this album. It’s an important album and deserves some second looks.

  10. Thank you for writing this. Although, I wouldn’t say that it was better than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, /\/\/\/\Y/\ was definitely one of my favourite albums this year. It didn’t deserve all the bad press that it received.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with what DS3M said. I heard the album and liked the super-aggressive content and form. From the “non-pretty” cover (man, you’re not going to find something similar on Etsy), to the texture of the sounds used -heavy emphasis on distorted mid-frequencies- in songs like “Illygirl” and “The message”. By it’s own standards and expectations, it’s an amazing album.
    Then I read all the heavy criticism of the album, but dismissed it as it fell in the “tries to extract meaning from the author” category (which was basically annihilated by Barthes et al. 40 years ago). For me, that’s facile criticism, and it floods the internet’s most and least respected sites. I’ve sometimes read this critics and cannot help but thinking that what they’re doing is analyzing artist’s psyches with an almost total independence of the artist’s making (or “product” if you prefer). You only need to read M.I.A.’s premature evaluation last line to understand what I’m saying. Other examples abound.
    So, to produce a valuable artistic product not only does this product has to correspond to the artist’s intentions, life and psyche but to what WE, the public, THINK are the artist’s intentions, life and psyche. In adding the artist to the appreciation of it’s product, we only have to take a step to judge art by the idea we have of the artist. So, if M.I.A.is a fake it follows that her art is bad. And if one disagrees with her moral or political status, in all probability, it will negatively affect the aesthetic judgment.

  12. Which also allows me to make another point (which will probably get me flamed): Kanye.
    Yes, I do believe that the very thing that ruined MAYA’s reception, helped to build Kanye’s MBDTF. Obviously, Kanye’s record is amazing, I’m not saying it isn’t. But I think that the thing that brought it to such incredible acceptance (a lot of people, literally, couldn’t believe it) was Kanye as a mediatic phenomenon. All this talk about his life, his frustrations, etc. and the way it “actually” corresponded (or, for the critics, seemed to correspond) with his artistic product, was a point in which almost all the reviews were anchored.
    Someone pointed out the absolute lack of arguments that should have justified his top spot in p4k’s album countdown (read it please). I think that, right there in those lines, ALMOST lie’s the justification for his appraisal. I would only change two simple words for one; instead of saying “Through all that noise, we obsessed first and most deeply over the eye of the storm: THE ALBUM”, it should say: Through all that noise, we obsessed first and most deeply over the eye of the storm: KANYE.

  13. Another possible reason why people hated on this album: M.I.A. has always made a name for herself with her crazy awesome shows, yet the songs on /\/\/\Y/\ don’t translate well in a live setting. On the album the bass is so complex and in flux that of course a venue’s speakers can’t do a good job of reproducing the subtleties that make /\/\/\Y/\ great. For example, when I saw her in Barcelona a week ago, I didn’t even recognize my favorite song, “Lovealot,” until she’d almost finished the performance.

  14. You know what’s more condescending than Pitchfork’s review of “/\/\ /\ Y /\”? This reevaluation. Very “haha I told you so”.

  15. I’m an individual and I always thought for myself and don’t let any publication or subculture think for me. On my Top 20 of the year, this album ranked at #6. I played the hell out of the leaked version, shitty quality and all. And after I purchased it, I played it even more. I never needed convincing, because I knew that it was something special when i first heard it. Love at first listen.

  16. I can’t get behind your biggest talking point being “the listeners ears were tainted by the bad press”. It’s 2010, tons of people (especially us internet dwellers) listen to an album before the reviews come out. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but I wasn’t a fan, and my mind was untainted.

    • you have a good point about critical reception losing its credibility after everything is getting leaked 4 months ahead our first evaluations aren’t coming predisposed.

  17. i love M.I.A’s music overall….every album has a filler song or 2, but MAYA has a great EP in it at best. i couldnt help but be disappointed and its a bit insulting that i have this opinion cus of some negative reviews…

    its just plain tuneless and uninteresting….i don’t mind the new direction if it had songs to back it up. and a lot of her lyrics reach new heights of silly “rub a dub a dub a dub”??? tell me why’s entire lyrics. i pretty much agree with P4K except I enjoy XXXO immensly.

  18. a few of these points stick, but seriously, compared to arular and especially kala, there is nothing on maya that is groundbreaking or even remotely catchy enough to warrant more than a third or fourth listen. sorry, everyone’s take on it by now is accurate: it’s forgettable, plain and simple. you’re all trying to perform cpr.

    so wonderful that you mentioned how much you “liked” it during the course of this post – i “like” maya as well, but i “liked” a lot of other records this year. i didn’t go out of my way to defend their averageness much less list them among my favorite records of the year.

    • No, Rob. All of it sticks. Whether Maya appeals to your personal tastes or not, forgettable is the absolute LAST adjective to describe the album. Why do you think it has generated so much controversy in the first place?

      In time, many will see the album as M.I.A.’s best. And I will gladly agree.

      • Well, to be fair, you’re right. It’s a memorable album. But I think what he was saying, and what I agree with, is that the *music* is forgettable. The fact that it generated some mixed reviews and definitely wasn’t the album that people expected made it memorable. For some people that’s not a good thing.

        • But that’s not true either. Both “XXXO” and “Born Free” have garnered a lot of positive attention for their sound aside from the controversy that surrounded them. If it wasn’t for the New York Times fiasco, at least one of them would be hailed as a defining single of 2010. Whether you enjoy the remainder of the album is beside the fact. The production is so combustive, aggressive and confrontational with its digital assault, that the music is immediately striking and leaves a lasting impression, whether some perceive this for good or bad. And thus Maya isn’t a forgettable album in the slightest, even if it’s not to some people’s tastes.

          • The harsh drill samples in the introduction to “Steppin Up” alone are enough to uproot teeth. You remember how Maya makes you feel— whether you are fascinated by its ear-shattering ruckus or filled with terror and annoyance.

          • Ok, for me, the music was forgettable because *everything* was try so desperately to be immediate and combustive. It was noisy and cluttered, and I forgot about it quickly like lots of other similarly noisy and cluttered things. But more crazily…

            “Whether you enjoy the remainder of the album is beside the fact.”

            Come on, that’s just ridiculous. You’re saying that this album is, I don’t know, important or relevant or something because it’s so challenging and up front, and really makes the listener take a stance. You’re straight up saying as long as something is intense and draws the listener’s attention is doesn’t have to be good – it’s already got your attention.

            MAYA is the girl at the party wearing gold American Apparel spandex, fire engine red lipstick, and Mary Kate Olsen accessories. She isn’t pretty, everyone’s just starting at her.

          • No, actually it’s not ridiculous at all. I’m saying it’s memorable for the very reasons I’ve already said. Whether or not you like the album. Whether or not it’s the album most were expecting. It’s not that difficult to comprehend so there’s no need to bend my words out of context. If you’re complaining about Maya being too “noisy and cluttered,” then its message has clearly gone over your head.

            Too many people have missed its point. It is willfully self-sabotaging and is a sonic manifestation of a world saturated with the conveniences of technology. The sounds are purposely cluttered and abrasive to illustrate the magnitude of our high-trafficked technological landscape. If Maya sounds harsh and overwhelming, then it has succeeded in its intent to polarize. It’s a musical contraption that accurately reflects the times, and relays a message that will age exceedingly well. Few artists are bold enough at such a vulnerable stage in their career to release an album this gutsy and relentless.

            Maya is also the meditation of a woman who is clearly uncomfortable with the trappings of commercial success and the album perfectly distills her unease. At the hands of a lesser artist, a daring proposition such as Maya would be instant career-suicide, but with M.I.A., it is instead a bold and uncompromising triumph.

          • neil young’s trans is also “the meditation of a man who is clearly uncomfortable with the trappings of commercial success and the album perfectly distills his unease” and that album is widely regarded as a huge piece of shit

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          • i didn’t insinuate that maya is a HUGE piece of shit, i’m just saying some freakouts against record labels/fanbase have potential to become an artist’s defining masterpiece, but most are a huge miss. and this just happens to be a big time miss. yeah, sorry, maya is more trans than berlin. give it another year.

            nobody ever mentions trans in the same breath as harvest or rust never sleeps

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        • talking about this record as the masterpiece it’s not has been quite the endeavor in itself, so i have to give you credit

          listen, the record SOUNDS good. there’s not many other records that sound quite like it. it’s well-intentioned. born free is among her best material. even the obnoxious glitchy sounds show a creative spark that the early girl talk records didn’t.

          but really, you can tell the diplo cuts from the rusko cuts without even looking at the personnel sheet because the diplo cuts are okay and the rest is filler. nothing gels. each track butts up against the next track in a way that can only be characterized as unpleasant. this is an unpleasant record to listen to. it doesn’t make you feel good when you listen to it. the lyrics are bad, she makes no effort in delivering them, which is a huge contrast to her other records. worst of all, if you back and listen to arular and then listen to this, you will get very depressed. it’s a letdown.

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          • i guess in some way, you’re right. i did say i “liked” it, but i suppose what i meant was that i “admired” it. it’s a confusing record, born to have its listeners harbor mixed feelings on it. if there’s one thing i can be sure of my assessment is that i’m mixed, and let the record show.

            i get it: this post was a semi-interesting farce to get everyone all riled up and philosophical and short-term nostalgic and maybe click on the banner ads. but all this enthusiastically delayed discussion was just listeners’ guilt for not initially suckling the teat of a record that had immense hype yet ended up simply being a disappointment. let me pose this question then: how can you dub an average record a successful one? i suppose there are bright spots in maya and a few of which might hold the test of time should she have an extended career past this point (doubtful) to pen a greatest hits. my point is, an average record, or in this case a below-average record, is not a memorable one for 2010, and certainly not one for 2020. in many ways it’s not m.i.a.’s fault: how could she possibly follow up such an earth-shaking record as kala with this piss-off to establish some sort of “i don’t care” cred? what the body of this post does not mention is that in addition to diplo’s skinny puppy comparisons, he also dumped on this record multiple times on twitter. like calling it a turd and such. look on the bright side, since she is definitely done with diplo, her next record will have production duties by scott storch or maybe the-dream!

            three or four posts later, you still have not commented on how this record holds up against her past 2 releases, because if you said this was better, you’d be lying.

          • it also depresses me a great deal that 1.) the author of this post uses the defense that “hey, at least one song here is good” and 2.) you seem to think that “dentist drill sound effects” on a “music record” deem that record as “art of great significance”

            so puff daddy sampling the police falls where on your scale…?

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        • Heh, at this point I really can’t tell if you’re serious or not, but I’ll respond anyway.

          “Maya is only a big miss for people with small minds”
          Bullshit. You’ve mainly talked about how this album challenges the listeners expectations, or how it angrily jumps out at them. I feel like such qualities evaporate when you take away the current context of the album. Which is to say, in ten years, when it’s just another random album from 2010, it won’t sound “challenging” or in your face or whatever. It will simply sound noisy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with music having a message. But distorted, messy shit *being* a message is basically worthless.

          Born Free and XXXO are undeniably poppy (though I think XXXO is a little thin), but it’s pretty absurd to say the album as a whole is pop focused, but just with a weird industrial feel to it. It’s like saying you’re eating Mexican food, but it’s slathered in marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese, so it’s got an Italian feel to it. It just doesn’t work like that.

          We aren’t hating just to be hating or hear ourselves type. And we’re not putting our opinions over anyone else’s. But when there’s an article telling us why this particular album is actually better than we thought it was, featuring a bunch of weak ass points, I think people like Rob and I have a right to speak up.

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        • sorry, gotta agree with bonk. not for me. i can usually judge a record by its worth by how many times i go back to it. i’ve listened to the suburbs seven or eight times. the titus andronicus record, i can’t even remember at this point. i’ve listened to maya three times, and the last time was back in august. and i don’t need to revisit it to give it one more chance per this discussion only to remember my disappointment. you can continue your favorite argument “but dudes, it’s about the internet!” but the truth is a lot of artists out there could’ve used other means like parody and satire or even decent metaphors instead of glitch and dentist drills and computer noises and been more successful in relaying whatever theory m.i.a. tries here. the fact is, it’s kind of the reason most movies about computers or the internet suck so bad. the internet is too huge and too universal to create a concept around. the only thing this record proves is that this concept escapes m.i.a.

          don’t you find your inane comments about bias just a little insulting? none of the millions of listeners can turn off the computer or put down the village voice in order to put any predetermined thought away before they pick up a record? sorry man, this is just one of those instances where all the bad hype and public missteps were an accurate reflection of the work. and we’ve seen, on the grand scale, that huge public disasters can lead to immensely enjoyable records and landing at the top of everyone’s favorite records of the year (kanye). i certainly didn’t judge her by all the bad press this past year. in fact, i thought the nytimes piece was ridiculous, the diplo twitter posts a little below the belt, and her letterman appearance was amazing and overlooked. she got a bad shake indeed. but when it comes down to it, she failed. she barely toured behind the record, there’s nothing in it that will please even the paper planes haters, and to top it all off, nobody was even talking about it by the time autumn came. this record was forgotten. the lack of enthusiasm after its release seems like this awful taste left in everyone’s mouths. but hey, a few people like that taste.

          • ” Maya will be dismissed as “noisy” for people without a capacity to understand its message about our extreme digital consumption. etc etc etc”

            See, my thing about all this is, I get it. I get why the album sounds the way it does and the message it’s trying to convey. But it still *sounds* bad. It’s aurally ugly. I don’t care if you can or can’t conceptually make a good album about the internet or the technological zeitgeist. I just care about how it’s lame sauce for my ear sauce.

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          • so glad you’ve taken the time to use some reasoning and logic instead of getting punchy – guess my time is done here

          • Rob, the reasoning and logic have been there on my end from the beginning. It’s too bad your bloated ego only allowed you to see what you wanted to see.

  19. I’m glad you write how you feel about albums. I’m getting really tired of seeing sites that used to stand behind artists/albums they liked folding to what’s hip. If I see one more list with Kanye’s Fantasy on top I’m going to straight poop.

  20. That’s Martin Rev, not Alan Vega with her on Letterman

  21. Maybe I didn’t read enough reviews of it when it came out, but I was under the impression that the general consensus for this album was: “It’s okay, but it’s not amazing.” This is a sentiment that I’d have to agree with. It was a good album, I liked it then and I like it now. But, it’s nothing like the first two albums which have unfortunately set a really high precedent.

    The question I wonder is, if this was her first album, what would the reaction have been? As it is now, it’s almost like you have to review her and her career so far in addition to reviewing /\/\/\Y/\.

  22. All in all I didn’t remember everyone completely panning this album. I recall being intrigued as to the requisite MIA lovers’ not really “feeling it”(p4k, et al), but I thought it received the appropriate luke warm reviews. From the second I heard it, /\/\/\Y/\, despite all of its tediousness (title, obnoxious album art, etc.) seemed like an album that had to simmer before it really grew on anyone.

    My problems with it tended to be more of a frustration with its mixing, and as stated above, it’s overall presentation. I really enjoyed the “Born Free” video (much more than the song), but it felt like a load blown all too early. I just figured for those who wanted the album to grow on them would let it.

    This entire article, though, is silly. How is “Prescient (and pretty) packaging” a reason to reconsider the quality of the music? And how is the “punk as fuck” argument regarding turning this album in following ‘Paper Planes’ any kind of statement to it’s “underratedness”?

    Ultimately, Maya’s shortcomings are her own. Her music sounds less like a jump forward and more like a well run dry of ideas. She sounds bored. The rallying chorus of “Born Free” sounded less like a call to arms and more like a suggestion; lost in a sea of reverb and indifference. And “Steppin Up’ (best track on the album) feels like the lone reason to revisit this album at all. If only Maya brought the politics to her music the way she does on her twitter. When the final product came out it felt like all of her musings and music were from separate people. The sentiments are still there (ish) but the bigger-than-life production and delivery along with that indie/world hip hop excitement have gone. When reviewers like this say “understated” they should be saying “underwhelming”. Giving /\/\/\Y/\ this much attention is expected, though not warranted.

    And comparing it to Kanye’s new album is comical at best. At least he backs up his shit-talking.

    • seriously, only pitchfork gave it an un-favorable review. This article is pointless.

      • to its credit, it’s not pointless when considered as a vulgar ego stroke by the scene’s no. 1 black metal librarian, bravely taking a stand about things nobody gives a fuck about. 

        as something approaching insightful or incisive or even prescient (which at this stage in the game would seem even harder to avoid then achieve), the article is of course a failure. it’s easy to say its premise doomed it (the whole piece smells like a petulant whinge by a former employee on their ex-employer’s Yahoo! review page than anything substantive), but it’s more accurate to say the smarmy, self-righteous, content-free text itself is the heaviest millstone.

        by the way, the preceding ire was brought to you, in part, by Brandon’s incredibly unfunny Twitter feed (i single this particular deficit out as one of its primary functions appears to be a showcase for his wit, seriously). if this article’s self-suckery and ressentiment, along with the author’s tin ear, really resonate with you, then please follow along! 

        since it’s the holiday season: Brandon – may i suggest trying to deemphasize using I/me/mine in EVERY FUCKING article you write? it drags the reader into the subjective, plus it’s irritating. 

        • Thanks, Hank.

          • ugh what an ugly mess, that fault’s on me. it originated out of 99 problems plus a bitch, now that such has passed, time to pull a Kanye – I’m Sorry Brandon. Your Top 50 was a good read, food for thought. Plus your Sotos interview is the best I’ve read. I do stand by the I/me/mine comment, but you may be on some existential shit that justifies it. Keep banging.

  23. I respect her decision to make that album, do what she wants. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  24. Sorry, I listened to it before this album came out (thanks for telling me how I think, btw), and I thought the first half of it was unlistenable, and the second half was okay. The grinding power tool nonsense is murder to my ears, and I never want to hear “XXXO” ever again. “Teqkilla” might be the worst song of 2010 that didn’t chart in the top 40. I’m glad you liked it, though the idea that anyone could appreciate this album more than Kanye’s is absolutely mind-boggling.

  25. it’s safe to say that part of the reason she fell off with this album is that it became clearer to the average MIA listener that she’s less of a true revolutionary and more of a charlatan.
    the best way to approach any piece of music is from an objective point of view but one can’t help having their view of her political, social, whatever “messaging” in the music now clouded by thoughts of how full of shit she actually is. she’s not a musician, she’s not much of a singer, her contributions to the visual aspect of her art are used and tired, and she’s exremely exaggerating/lying about most of what seemed powerful and personal in her lyrics.
    Plus, the songs in /\/\ /\ y /\ are either boring and weak or jarring and irritating. music isn’t cool just because the person had the idea of making it sound like shit on purpose. at its most ambitious, the album is too contrived and at its safest, it’s just uninteresting.

  26. This album is horrible. Who lives in Brazil and listen do Funk Carioca/Proibidão since the early 90′s will agree with me.
    I can’t stand M.I.A.’s music, it’s like those new Kings of Leon records: fake and pretentious.

  27. Also: this article is a “Stop disliking what I like! :(” situation. Shame on your Stereogum.

  28. Next article: 8 Reasons Why the Most Serene Republic’s “Population” should’ve been one of the most praised albums of 2007.

  29. I’ve really tried to like this record since I got it earlier in the year. I’ve listened to it a bunch of times, and I tried to give it one last play yesterday.
    I only got about halfway through before turning it off. It’s just as tuneless, abrasive, and annoying as I remembered. No offense, Brandon, but this record was and still is pretty disappointing, especially given how great Kala was.

  30. This is no “They Were Wrong So We Drowned”. Whereas Liars made a confrontational album based on textures, moods and tension that needed to be scrutinized beyond its surface layers to reveal its true nature, M.I.A. made a confrontational album based on waving her hands in front of your face and screaming, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” There’s no digging deeper, there are no mysteries to reveal; it just beats you over the head and hopes it drives the point through.

    It’s not a terrible album; I wouldn’t even call it unlistenable. But you can’t peg it as an overlooked classic just because listeners might may have had altered expectations of it when they heard it for the first time. A lot of people do still judge an album based on its content and content alone, which (rather than previous efforts and packaging) should be how a truly just evaluation should be done.

    I understand why this article exists, but in trying to rectify a situation you feel is unfair, you’re also telling Stereogum readers that if they don’t like the album they’re not trying hard enough. Which is kind of like telling them they don’t know what they’re doing, so they should just take your word for it. Isn’t that attitude exactly what we were trying to avoid here?

  31. What a weird post.

    Don’t tell people they are wrong…that shouldn’t be the point. Yeah you liked it. And some people didn’t…that’s how these things work…

    And really, is this just about how you think it’s better than Pitchfork did?? Welcome to the fucking internet.

  32. It’s greeaat that you’ve done this post !
    This record may not be the best of this year (it isn’t) but one of the 10 more memorables and maya has consolidated as one clever and unique girl
    XXXO or Born Free are realllly high tunes
    Now you guys should do the same thing with el guincho, who has an album with very very special songs and for me the best song of the year: Bombay. I wouldn’t like that people don’t enjoy the album cuz of the pitchfork’s note.
    Thanx stereogum for having cool posts like this one and happy holidays from spain

  33. Brandon Stosuy’s insights continue to irritate, condescend, and gloat in the face of the people whose approval he so desperately seeks.

  34. “You read the bad reviews and either approached the record with prejudiced ears or didn’t listen it all.”

    Seriously?? That’s great that you hold others, including your readers, in such low regard. Because it’s not like MIA made an album that was sonically difficult and a departure from the forward-thinking world music party of her last two albums, or that her politics on this album seemed thin, tired, and attention-seeking. Nope, if someone didn’t like this album, it’s not because the album was divisive or anything of the sort, it’s because they couldn’t possibly have the intelligence to make their own opinion.

  35. jesus everybody needs to chill out. The article isn’t called 8 reasons why i’m right about liking MAYA and you’re all stupid. The article is giving reasons for why it might be better than people remember. Holy crap what an ass hole right? I admit i didn’t even give it a chance when it came out, and even though i have listened to it now and still think it’s garbage, i can admit i had a biased opinion at first because of the negative press. He has a point, if a bunch of places review an album and call it shitty, you’re bound to be thinking that the album is going to be a disappointment, and you’re going to look for things wrong with it. honestly, i think everybody needs to admit that they DID have a biased opinion when they read all the shitty reviews. A lot of bands/artists get bad reviews when they come out, and then their albums are considered classics later on (MAYA will not be one of them, let me say). Everybody needs to chill the fuck out, the article isn’t giving you your opinion, it’s offering a different opinion for discussion, which clearly was a bad idea based on the dickheaded posts that are on here.

    • plus, even the people who just said that they liked the album (without being a dickhead, mind you) got low comment ratings just because they said they liked the album. What is wrong with you people that you are wasting your time to thumbs down someone who says they like the fucking album? clearly, those people aren’t being picked on because they are being pretentious about liking the album, they are being picked on simply because they like the album, which proves this entire article’s point. good job guys.

    • Assholish comments about the author are out of hand, but the thing that bothers me (and a couple others) is that we straight up listened to the record without reading a word beforehand. Don’t get me wrong, it’s shitty to assume the vast majority of people were just going with the general press negativity when they listened to the album. It’s insulting. But there are a lot of people who just straight up, media frenzy not on the radar, hated it.

      • thank god there is someone on the internet who is sane. Good point, it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone listened to the press negativity, and based their views on it. I know there are others like me who figured it sucked when they heard the bad reviews, and there are many like you as well who listened to the album on its own merit, and that is the way to go. I agree with you and a lot of others on one thing: /\/\/\Y/\ sucked.

    • “The article isn’t called 8 reasons why i’m right about liking MAYA and you’re all stupid.”

      Might as well be.

      Plus his “reasons” aren’t very solid…”punk as fuck”?? Really. That’s one of your reasons? Because it sounds shitty AND is on a major doesn’t make it good music. Neither does claiming the cover really is good (even though it isn’t), or the fact that she talks about the fact that she’s rich…

      What weird logic.

      • Dude, Gucci Mane’s last album was a CLASSIC because of how he was punk enough to reference his gaudy jewelery constantly.

        Yeah, MAYA sucked. I’m not spelling it in that stupid typeface either.

  36. Personally, as a Sri Lankan Tamil my view of Maya was more influenced by the unnuanced things she said about the whole conflict, and also her seeming self-elevated status as the spokesperson for the Tamil people, and indeed all dispossessed peoples around the world.
    Her schtick is so fake its disgusting and ultimately she is as manufactured as Justin Bieber.
    I thought that parts of her album were good, but overall not as successful sonically as her first two releases.

    I hate pretentiousness however, and this colours my view of her music as being made for pretentious hipster d-bags

  37. ugh what an ugly mess, that fault’s on me. it originated out of 99 problems plus a bitch, now that such has passed, time to pull a Kanye – I’m Sorry Brandon. Your Top 50 was a good read, food for thought. Plus your Sotos interview is the best I’ve read. I do stand by the I/me/mine comment, but you may be on some existential shit that justifies it. Keep banging.

  38. Glad someone who doesn’t have their head up their ass writes how this record wasn’t awful. Same goes for the “Born Free” video. Did people not like it because it happened to reflect very real goings-on in the world and wasn’t as cozy as their suburb or loft? One of the best videos of the year and of all time

  39. All I’d like to say is that /\/\/\Y/\ has it’s high points (“Born Free”, “Teqkilla”, “It takes a muscle”) and it’s low points (“xxxo”, “meds and feds” the rest of the album). I truthfully would love M.I.A. to keep sampling the clash and do more songs like Paper Planes but it’s unnatural for an artist to the same thing over and over. /\/\/\Y/\ feels empty like Maya wasn’t giving it all she’s got. On Arular and Kala she sounded like she had something to prove and that even if she didn’t prove it she was still gonna blow your embassy to pieces (metaphorically of course). That’s Then again it is a persons opinion not fact so make up your own minds people and never like or dislike something just because it received good or bad reviews. Contra got great reviews but it’s still a shitty album!

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