M.I.A.'s new album, artistic expectations, stuff I'm reading, and getting ready.
First, let me start by saying that I like M.I.A. a lot, but her recent album, /\/\/\Y/\ (or MAYA) is getting some mixed reviews (click on the link--Pitchfork kills it).Paste gives it a "commendable" rating and Pop Matters gives it a "Satisfactory." Rolling Stone, however, gives it four stars.
I've listened to it a few times. Do I like it? I'm not sure, but I know this--she's experimenting with her genre and her aesthetic, and for that I commend her. I think even the folks at Pitchfork acknowledge where M.I.A. is in her career when they say "It's not exactly a surprise that M.I.A. would opt to create such an off-putting and anti-pop album at this point in her career. She may be reaching for an interesting and provocative style . . ."
Still, they're calling the album a "misstep." Myself, I don't think it's a misstep, but rather a natural movement whose modus infuses politics with hypnotic beats. Now that she has an audience, perhaps she's seeing how far they will go with her into her aesthetic space.
Of course, I draw analogies to the growth of an author--the changes that SHOULD occur in their aesthetics over time, or the ways in which they SHOULD wish to challenge both themselves and their audiences. I like M.I.A.'s lack of compromise. She did NOT want to make a "pop" album, and it shows. Rather, we get a mash of heavy and aggressive metal/industrial/electronica with a Reggaeton/hip-hop back beat that's a bit sped up. All of it is tonally in your face which, to my mind, is a brilliantly daring challenge to purported "fans" who liked her "Paper Planes" song but merely liked it for its catchy beat.
Speaking of challenging one's aesthetics, I've been reading a lot of short stories lately. I just finished Anthony Doerr's title story of his new collection, Memory Wall, and it was a good one. I'm surprised by both his economy and how he can so cover so much territory in very few pages. The secrets of the past, memory, and the night time initially confuse, but as you stick with it, the payoff of the story is grand. I had trouble sleeping after I finished the story because I kept thinking about his style and how I want to be Anthony Doerr when I grow up.
I have one week left before the end of my summer class and I'm so ready to have a break. I've mentioned this before, but I have two projects that I want to finish this year and one that I want to revive. I plan on applying for sabbatical for next year, so it's important for me to get started on these manuscripts. Every August I try to write a poem a day. I intend to perform the same exercise this year. I can't wait.
Bet you thought it would be M.I.A. Nope.