Album: M.I.A ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’ (Remote Control)

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When M.I.A (aka: Maya Arulpragasam) notified media of the name of her new album as ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’ (read: MAYA), journalists figured the artist was sacrificing opportunities for search engine optimisation (try typing that into Google and see what comes up; maybe one of her video links, if you’re lucky). But methinks M.I.A, or Maya, had a smarter tactic in mind. A lack of search engine optimisation also means freeloaders are less likely to be able to find new tracks by the artist on free-to-download sites like Limewire. And to make matters more chaotic, this smarty-pants has gone and titled her tracks with all manner of incorrect spelling. Songs called ‘Teqkilla’, ‘Lovalot’ and ‘It Iz What It Iz’ are less likely to be found on such sites when some punters have a hard time getting Gaga or Madonna right (read: typos in Ga Ga and Maddona, and there’s plenty of ‘em).

Ironically, computer hacking and internet fraud are the main themes of the album, not only in its cut-and-paste artwork but in lyrical warnings like in opening track ‘The Message’ (“Headphone’s connected to the iPhone’s connected to the Internet’s connected to the Google’s connected to the Government”). M.I.A even boasts on the back sleeve ‘WELCOME [to] hactivism @ ITS BEST’.

But don’t let the hype blind you from the utter talent. Despite the video for lead single ‘XXXO’ receiving backlash for its depiction of a group of red-heads being shot by soldiers, and aside from M.I.A’s big-mouth bantering on some of the dodgy dealings of the music industry, listen to the songs and you’ll discover there’s method to the madness. While a couple of the tracks on ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’ are erratic as all hell and might have you reaching for the Panadol, some are as cunningly structured and infectious on the listener as anything in the commercial Top 40. Highlights include ‘IT Takes A Muscle’ (two parts dub, one part soul and a cute chorus) and ‘Tell Me Why’ (this year’s ‘Paper Planes’ with less antagonism and more invitation to groove).

All up, ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’ is an impressive LP that already has listeners in the know loving it, fashion designers sure to be pilfering it for next season’s collections, and the rest of them no doubt hooked on one track or another come 12 slow months’ time.