M.I.A. - Maya

Daniel Willis 24/07/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

The list of Things That Could Go Wrong with M.I.A.'s third studio album 'Maya' includes stiflingly high expectations from fans and critics after the successes of 'Arular' and 'Kala', an over-assertion of the independent too-cool image resulting in an album of pretentious drivel or the converse potential to create an album of floorfillers in the style of 'Paper Planes' to satisfy club djs (and attendees with dodgy gun-toting dance moves) but not those with any real interest in music. The achievement of the album in not only avoiding these calamities but surpassing all other previous efforts is therefore astounding.

Firstly, there is sheer variety. The bailie-funk electro of lead single 'XXXO', the heavy rock-house mix of 'Born Free' along with disco, reggae, dub, two-step, chillout influences throughout make it a multi-paced and many styled album. Never more than now she has sidestepped genre; this is only the sound of M.I.A.

But more than that, this is fun to listen to whilst being a clever, questioning, dance album all at the same time. 'Arular' had the originality but little else, 'Kala' devastatingly weak at points but 'Maya' feels like a progression to the almost untouchable. 'TEQKILLA' embodies the rebellious party attitude, 'LOVALOT' and 'STEPPIN UP' provide outrageously swaggering statements of sound, rhythm and personality whilst 'TELL ME WHY' is the true representation of Bob Marley on the run from the C.I.A.

M.I.A., however, is too clever to leave this unnoticed. Album opener 'THE MESSAGE' paints the image of an all encompassing police state of information: "Connected to the IPhone / connected to the Internet / connected to the Google / connected to the government". 'Maya', thankfully, is not a work obsessed with that image but it is a statement against it. Through sheer originality, personality and success, M.I.A. persuades us there is a life for individuals outside of the media and when it is as vibrant and exhilarating as this it is certainly a cause for celebration.

Release date: 12/07/2010