Album: M.I.A. /\/\ /\ Y /\ (Neet / XL)
The return of M.I.A.: pop's rebel without a clue
Sunday 11 July 2010
Viewers who saw M.I.A. perform at last year's Grammys with a prominent belly bulge were surprised to learn that she was actually nine months pregnant: most assumed the 34-year-old was merely carrying the weight of her own self-importance.
Since the release of 2005 debut Arular, she has become the poster girl for a certain political world-view: loosely speaking, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-globalisation. She has immaculate rebel heritage: her father was, or so she claims, a Tamil revolutionary fighter. She should be right up my street. So why does she unfailingly rub me up the wrong way?
Firstly because, while all manner of personality defects are tolerable in a rock star, smugness is unforgivable. Secondly because her lyrics and public statements favour the suspicion that we're dealing with an artist who isn't as intelligent as she thinks she is.
/\/\/\Y/\ was created with the help of London DJ-producer Switch, Baltimore's Blaqstarr, Yorkshire-based dubstep man Rusko and ex-boyfriend and long-time collaborator Diplo. Like her two previous efforts, it employs a multi-ethnic, pick-and-mix aesthetic, although there's a harsher, industrial edge this time, the sub-Peaches electro-punk of "Meds and Feds" being a case in point. However, as with sugary sing-song "Tell Me Why", it has its airier interludes. The slightly Prince-ish "XXXO" is political only with a lower-case 'P', dealing with relationship role play via lines like "I can be the actress, you can be Tarantino". Lyrically, that's as good as it gets: this is an album where the title "Teqkilla" is considered a brilliant pun.
Often, the most interesting moments arise when M.I.A. herself is absent. See the backwards beats of "Lovalot" – when she comes in with banal boast "I fight the ones that fight me"; it's an irritant. But the /\/\/\Y/\ era's most potent moment isn't even present here. I refer to the video for "Born Free" which depicts ginger people being rounded up by the military and used for target practice. It's far superior to the track itself, which samples Suicide's "Ghost Rider" to unspectacular effect. Some might argue that a lefty, radically minded pop star is something for which we should just shut up and be grateful. But is M.I.A. really the best we can do?
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who left house after argument with her parents
- 4 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
Game of Thrones season 6: George RR Martin doing 'anything he can' to get new book The Winds of Winter out before next HBO series airs
Game of Thrones, Battle of Hardhome: 20-minute Wildlings versus White Walkers battle took a 'solid month' to film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, The Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow returns to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Touch-screen Teletubbies say hello: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are back, now with smart technology
Black Angel: Long lost Star Wars precursor to be made into crowdfunded feature film
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers