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M.I.A.’s /\/\/\Y/\ (MAYA)

Facebook and Google are tools by which the government can keep tabs on us. The internet, mainstream news media, and technology in general have been hijacked by the powers that be, and have weaved their way into every facet of our lives, purporting to bring us together while actually moving us further and further away from one another, as well as our true selves.

That, in a nutshell, is the gist of M.I.A.’s fantastic new album /\/\/\Y/\ (or MAYA). And while the specifics may be a bit of a stretch, her message is still fascinating, thought-provoking, and undoubtedly vital. MAYA is essential.

MAYA is a difficult listen. M.I.A. wields jarring, industrial noises like chainsaws, computer keys being typed, and jets taking off like guitar riffs, fashioning an overall vibe that is tumultuous and oppressive, and one that takes pleasure in mocking our “modern,” technologically-driven world. Oddly enough, the actual songs are some of the most pop-leaning she’s ever done. She is singing more on MAYA than her previous albums. And on the surface, tracks like “Teqkilla” and “XXXO” seem like mindless dance tracks, while her reggae cover of “It Takes A Muscle” seems perfectly harmless as well. But dig deeper and you’ll hear an artist turning modern pop sensibilities upside down.

The recording of M.I.A.’s  previous record Kala took place while M.I.A. was banned from entering the United States. This setback turned out to be a blessing, as she instead opted to travel the world, recording anywhere she could, and letting the particular cultural sounds of each location find their way into the albums sound. This worldly sound stands in stark contrast with that of MAYA, an album recorded while M.I.A. was not allowed to leave the United States. In other words, MAYA is the sound of an artist caged and constrained, lashing out at the deceptions of the world around her.

From “Lovealot,” where her phrasing makes her sound like she’s saying “I really love Allah,” over and over, to the melancholy “It Iz What It Iz,” where she halfheartedly quips “We can have discussions while we are playing Wii;”or even the final track, “Space,” where, over a sparse backing track, she sings “My lines are down/You can’t call me,” MAYA is as iconoclastic as it gets; a wakeup call to our digital world.

Turn off Fox News, log off Facebook for a while, and let’s educate ourselves about the world we live in. And let’s actually get to know one another too.

And maybe we’ll get to know ourselves in the process.