Review: M.I.A., ‘/\/\/\Y/\’

Review: M.I.A., ‘/\/\/\Y/\’: Aidin Vaziri | Maya Arulpragasam is really good at making a racket. Her breakthrough hit, “Paper Planes” – borrowing its main riff from the Clash – famously paired the sound of bullets popping and cash registers ringing. The video for her Suicide-sampling single “Born Free” is loaded with gratuitous images of redheaded kids getting their heads blown off. Better yet, when everyone’s favorite Sri Lankan pop star took issue with a New York Times profile last month, she promptly broadcast the writer’s personal cell number to her followers on Twitter. The only problem is, all the peripheral noise tends to drown out the actual music she makes as M.I.A. And with her third album, it’s the music that deserves to be heard above all else. “/\/\/\Y/\” crackles with electricity as genres collide and ideas overflow. Using cheap drum machines, raw synth lines and vaguely recycled melodies, Arulpragasam constructs a set of undeniably great, fairly innovative pop tunes such as “Teqkilla” and “It Iz What It Iz.” The single “XXXO” may sound like a leftover from the “Weird Science” soundtrack, but at the same time, it reveals she can hang with Gaga while blasting the self-absolving chorus “You want me be somebody who I’m really not.” Meanwhile, “Tell Me Why,” a song that sounds as if it were recorded inside an empty garbage bin, may do for her career what “Umbrella” did for Rihanna. All M.I.A. has to do is step out of the way.

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