Taking sides: Is the M.I.A. backlash a result of truffle fry angst or crummy songs?
It's been a whiplashing week for M.I.A. Her new album, "Maya," was released on Tuesday to lukewarm reviews. Bummer. But the Brit rapper bounced back that very evening with a captivating performance of "Born Free" on Letterman. Stunner!
These spikes and crashes are becoming the norm for Maya Arulpragasam, who is still brushing the dirt off her shoulders from a now-infamous, not-so-flattering New York Times Magazine profile. Now fans are wondering: Did that profile color critics' reviews of the album? Wednesday, Questlove of the Roots tweeted, "damn. didn't know M.I.A.'s NYT's antics came at a price." Then he linked followers to the album's lackluster (but still not horrible!) score on Metacritic.
For our weekly Taking sides post, Click Track's contributors wrestle with the following: Are music critics transposing their post-New-York-Times-Magazine-profile-angst into their assessment of M.I.A.'s new album? Or is "Maya" just a crummy batch of songs?
Vote in our poll below, and read our thoughts after the jump.
Allison Stewart: I think that backlashes -- and M.I.A. is in the middle of a big one -- have a logic all their own. More than anything, the New York Times piece gave journalists permission (for lack of a better word) to go ahead and say what they'd been thinking anyway. Critics had built her into something bigger than she deserved: she's a great synthesizer of ideas whom they had been treating as a great artist. All it took was one iffy album and a self-immolating magazine profile and buyer's remorse set in. It was like a market correction of an overpriced stock. M.I.A. benefited from the hype, but it cuts both ways.
David Malitz: I don't think it's as much a "we made you, we will destroy" scenario as it is a need to constantly advance the narrative. With M.I.A., her appeals has always been as much about the story/significance as the music. And for a while it worked out well for everyone. She made amazing music, she was easy to write about, she was transforming pop music -- everybody wins. All of the latest developments have just upped the ante to the point where it would be a letdown to simply say that she made a mediocre album. Which is pretty much what "Maya" is. But that's not enough now. There has to be more meaning, it has to go deeper. So in this case it's easiest to just go negative because it keeps the story moving forward. And when she makes her awesome fourth album (that's gonna happen, right?), well, the storyline is already there.
Chris Richards: As someone who reviewed the album, I disagree with all y'all! I disagree with Questlove's assertion that critics are hating under the influence of truffle fries (the album just stinks). I disagree with Malitz claiming that it's easy to go negative (for me, it's very, very difficult to see one of your favorite musicians churn out something that doesn't resonate with you). And I disagree with Allison's assessment of her talent (I think M.I.A.'s unprecedented ability to synthesize disparate musical ideas has allowed her to redefine what a pop artist can be in the information age). I do agree with Diplo. Wait, no I don't. Do I? Great reporting, BlackBook!
July 15, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories: Taking sides | Tags: M.I.A.
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