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M.I.A.'s "Maya" leaks: the (early) verdict?

Ok, so you have a female artist whose electroclash-y half-rap sing-songs ignited the blogosphere in the mid-00's; she jets around amongst several continents that she calls home; and after being on the verge of breaking out of the underground, she flamed out a few years ago to have a child, re-group, and now has a new album coming out this month that has leaked early. No, we aren't talking about UFFIE-- whose Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans founds its way onto the blogosphere well in advance of its mid-June release date-- but M.I.A., whose new album Maya (we refuse to follow the meme of referring to it as /\/\/\Y/\) hits June 29th but has finally leaked in its entirety.

The verdict? Well, the pop hits that prop the album up could convincingly sell the record to a mainstream audience, but were said audience to ingest the album whole, they would probably find vast stretches between where the plot gets lost amidst more... experimental dance music. Again, still not talking about the new Uffie album, which that entire sentence is also true of! Which I suppose echoes the sentiments of Diplo, Maya's sometime-producer and somewhat bitter ex, who tweeted last week "just listened to mastr of the MIA album.. WOW.. my 3 trax are slammin! dunno bout the rest". Yikes! (He also recently posted what looked like a link to a leak of the album-- we were not previously familiar with the concept of a Bieber-roll!)

Well, we wouldn't go that far-- but if you were expecting this to be M.I.A.'s move to the mainstream-- well, it isn't, really, even if tracks like "XXXO", with it's buoyant pop step, might make you think otherwise. "Tell Me Why" finds Maya actually attempting (and sort of succeeding at) singing, "Meds and Feds" is a scuz-rocker that kinds of sounds like XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream if you quint really hard, and closer "Space" is a gorgeous piece of floating ephemera. But the album is definitely front-loaded with bounce, until the beat-jacking overload is derailed by the 6-1/2 minute "Teqkilla", a somewhat meandering piece that mixes avant jazz, video game noises, and pitch-shifted mumbling. It's a cool track that indicates to anyone listening that M.I.A. is, at heart, an exploratory artist who has a natural tendency to reject any suggestions that she should tighten up her game to appease a broader "market". In a sense, though, the key moment on the album comes early, during the chorus to "XXXO"-- as Maya sings "You want me to be somebody who I'm really not".

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