Scratched Into Our Souls

M.I.A. – “Teqkilla” | July 22, 2010

It’s not often that something in Rolling Stone magazine gets my attention anymore, but their profile on M.I.A. in their newest issue caught my eye. Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam has been the talk of town for the last couple months leading up to the release of her newest album, the divisive /\/\ /\ Y /\. Her artiest and most aggressive album to date, /\/\ /\ Y /\ is more likely to start an argument than any talk of Arulpragasam’s politics can – and that’s really saying something.

M.I.A. uses politics in her art just like Madonna would use sex or The Hold Steady would use religion, so while she may be controversial as a person, nothing seems to have become more controversial than the content of her newest album itself. Critical reviews of the album have ranged more drastically on this album than any other in 2010. A quick glance over the aggregated scores on Metacritic reveals that she has received equal amounts of praise and critique, with seven reviews scoring the album above an 80 and an equal number of reviews scoring the album below a 60, with a smattering of scores in between. Reading the opposing reviews, you’d think that 

In fact, M.I.A. seems to be a whole collection of contradictions. Following the success of “Paper Planes” in the summer of 2008, M.I.A. is now a bona-fide pop-star, but her newest album might as well be the anti-pop album of the year. Fans and critics alike have called songs like “Teqkilla” ‘irritating’ and ‘unlistenable.’ Yet others hear the infectious hooks buried within the jumbled mess of sounds, noting just how much that noise actually makes the song more intense and full of nervous energy than any sugary traditional pop production could have ever done. She claims to not know anything about politics, but demands that she be allowed to voice her opinion on it nonetheless – I suppose that makes it our fault for taking her too seriously. She’s both a singer and a rapper, but does neither conventionally. Her beats are a mix of electronic blips and raw, tribal percussion. Her instrumentation varies between electronic and acoustic, sometimes in the same song. No wonder she’s causing such a stir. Who exactly is M.I.A. and what the hell are we to make of her music? Myself, I’ve loved her from the first time I’ve heard her, and you can count me in the camp that thinks her newest album is another great one.

At the end of her profile in Rolling Stone, Arulpragasam notes that the one place she would live if she could live anywhere would be outer space. Say whatever you want about her, but you can’t say she doesn’t have ambitious dreams.

Listen: M.I.A. – “Teqkilla”

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    About Me: Chris Robinson

    A budding writer and avid music fan from Los Angeles, California, I am a recent graduate of Music History from UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music. I've written for the UCLA Daily Bruin, graduated valedictorian from high school, and enjoy many different types of music, from The Beatles to Beethoven, and everything in between. I wrote my senior thesis on lyrical misinterpretations in popular music, focusing on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

    Add me on last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/crob3888

    All music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Go out and buy their music, attend their shows, and buy merchandise.

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