February 2, 2011

Test Spins: M.I.A.

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Coming off of Maya, her much-maligned third album, M.I.A. is in need of a bit of an image reboot. Maya squandered any real chance at capitalizing on her newfound popularity from “Paper Planes.” First, she featured a more industrial, harsh sound that alienated pop fans. Next, she had an unflattering feature in the New York Times that stripped her of her legitimacy as a voice of anarchy. Last, in an overly pretentious and controversy-baiting video about a “ginger holocaust” she lost her ability to be politically precocious without pandering. Her image was falling apart at the seams.M.I.A. seemingly understood the rut that she was in, and, so she looked to the earlier success of her critical breakthrough, Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1. Imitating the same long-form, free-flowing format that earned her critical notoriety, Vicki Leekx presents a version of M.I.A. that shirks the high-minded political intent of Maya in favor of the hypnotic, itchy party beats that infected her first mixtape. The album starts off like a hectic late night DJ set, moving from repetitive theme to repetitive theme. These early tracks maintain a hazy, wild party atmosphere through the use of cheap electronics and rave themes. This feel is interrupted by a nigh intelligible spoken intermission, but resumes during a strong second half. Highlights include the hardcore blastbeat-utilizing “Gen-n-e-y”, a declaration of M.I.A.’s individuality in the face of critical backlash, “Bad Girls”, a militant-sounding jam featuring simple lyrics about chains and dashboards, and “Marsha/Britney”, a scrawl against fashion-obsessed girls who want to be American Apparel models.After a hectic year in which M.I.A. ceded her throne as pop music’s craziest chick to Nicki Minaj, one could have expected her to lapse into self-parody. Luckily for fans of the bhangra-tinged party jams of her first two albums, Vicki Leekx showcases an M.I.A. on the rebound. She getts herself back together and delivers a fun though inconsistent mixtape that, in more ways than one, surpasses her latest proper album. -James Rainis

Original Author: James Rainis