M.I.A. Returns, With A Darker, Harder 'Maya' Maya is the third full-length album by M.I.A., and it rattles with hard-edged and well-produced beats and electronica. Reviewer Oliver Wang says that even if it's not her best work, the record still offers reminders of why M.I.A. is one of the most compelling and unusual artists in pop today.
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M.I.A. Returns, With A Darker, Harder 'Maya'

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M.I.A. Returns, With A Darker, Harder 'Maya'

Review

M.I.A. Returns, With A Darker, Harder 'Maya'

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Oliver Wang is our reviewer and he says while it's far from her best work, the record still proves that M.I.A is an artist who's work is unparalleled.

OLIVER WANG: Listeners could have reached that same conclusion in about four bars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORN FREE")

MAYA ARULPRAGASAM: (Singing) I don't wanna talk about money, 'cause I got it. And I don't wanna talk about hoochies, 'cause I been it. And I don't wanna be that fake, 'cause you can do it.

WANG: My experience with every new M.I.A. album tends to be the same: the pre- release is so fever-pitched, I feel exhausted before I hear even a single song, and then I slip in some earbuds, touch play, and my head promptly explodes. This is a good thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARULPRAGASAM: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

WANG: Unlike the brighter tones on M.I.A.'s last album, "Kala," much of "Maya" pushes you down into dark, basement clubs, where her producers serve up glitchy, noisy beats that careen between cold, concrete walls.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARULPRAGASAM: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

WANG: It's these moments which make other songs on "Maya" so surprisingly off- note. Perhaps befitting her growing mainstream stature, a few tracks feature the kind of post-disco electro-beats and studio-tweaked vocals that seem better suited to artists such as Robyn, Ke$ha or even Katy Perry. This is not a good thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARULPRAGASAM: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

WANG: Despite these lapses, the rest of the album highlights what's compelling about her voice. It's not her range or clarity, really it's not, but rather her distinctively piercing timbre, with its exotic mash of Kingston patois, Bristol brogue and Brooklyn swagger.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARULPRAGASAM: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

WANG: But through their songs, the better ones craft personas that fill the needs of listeners, whether for sensitive poets or sexy cheerleaders. M.I.A. is a self- styled third-world rabble-rouser, and whatever the distance between the life she leads and the life she sings, the sonic force of her music feels as real as we want it to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: The artist is M.I.A. Reviewer Oliver Wang runs the audio blog Soul- Sides.com

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