Review : M.I.A. - Vicki Leekx
PitchforkM.I.A. is coming off of a pretty brutal year, what with a string of PR disasters and ///Y/, her abrasive, disheartening clang of an album. As a self-consciously confrontational experiment in all-out agitprop and industrial sonic overload, that record had snarl and ambition but little of the sassy snap and sidelong force of her first two classics, Arular and Kala. For all her bombs-exploding imagery and global-warchild empathy, M.I.A. always came off like a smart, arty, round-the-way girl who, it happened, had seen some shit; she was concerned about the fate of her homeland and about the text messages on her man's phone, and those concerns coexisted in nervous harmony. ///Y/ replaced that persona with a near-humorless conspiracy theorist who really seemed to think the government controlled Facebook.
But with her new Vicki Leekx mixtape, M.I.A. buries her 2010 with a single, chaotic, 36-minute track. Released to the Internet on New Year's Eve, Vicki Leekx madly crams around 20 tracks into its runtime and channels ///Y/'s furious tumult into something that sometimes slips into sheer dizzy joy. Vicki Leekx is also an experiment in steamrolling sonic overdrive. This is a busy piece of work, with noisy interruptions and song excerpts that end as soon as they begin. But it's delivered with heart and vigor and humor, and it reintroduces an M.I.A. who actually sounds like M.I.A. once again.
Vicki Leekx is M.I.A.'s first mixtape since she and then-boyfriend Diplo released Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1 more than six years ago, introducing her to the world in a blur of then-current global-pop genre-fusion. Piracy Funds Terrorism chased its moment, and M.I.A. existed beautifully alongside Missy Elliott and baile funk and LL Cool J's "Headsprung". Without Diplo playing party controller (though he does contribute some production), Vicki Leekx only rarely sounds specific to an instance in time. Musically, it falls right into M.I.A.'s wheelhouse: fast, cheap, and out of control dance music that pulls a ton from Baltimore club and old-school rave but never settles into anything you could nail down as an actual genre....full text
Sputnikmusic2010 has not been particularly kind to Maya Arulpragasam. By this point, we all know the story - the once-excellent artist thrust into sudden fame lets her ego get the best of her, tweets a journalist's phone number after an unflattering profile in the New York Times Magazine, starts spewing bullshit like "Google and Facebook were invented by the C.I.A." and releases a record that's nothing but self-aggrandizing noise (with a stupidly stylized title as well!). Except that MAYA was so much more than that - aside from being an utterly gripping listen, it was an oddly prescient work that focused on how fame, self-absorption, and politics were becoming increasingly muddled together. "We're growing up in middle of the digital ruckus." This line, crucial in its summation of MAYA's overall concept, doesn't appear on VICKI LEEKX, M.I.A.'s new mixtape, but its presence is very much felt.
Which means that VICKI LEEKX will probably be met with the same polarized response that MAYA encountered; that exploitative title certainly won't help matters. But this time, the music is less insistently discordant, forgoing the jarring (and literal) drill-and-bass of "Steppin' Up" for something slightly more...well, it's hard to say if accessible is the right word. This stuff is still pretty messy, after all, continuing to work in the schizophrenic Internet-driven vein of MAYA. But songs like "Gen-N-E-Y" and "Bad Girls" have more traditional beats and hooks, rendering them more immediate than, say, "Lovalot". Their lyrics are also more intelligible, giving the former track's chorus of "you can have my money but you can't have me" an extra punch.
A line like that exemplifies precisely why M.I.A. has been vilified by so many people this year; her marriage to the wealthy scion of the Seagram company in particular incited outrage among those with self-righteous ideals about "genuineness" or "authenticity". Such criticisms aren't necessarily invalid, but they are a bit irrelevant, since one of the reasons we ever paid attention to Arulpragasam in the first place was her bundle of contradictions. "I'm not talking about getting it for free. I'm talking about making it...freer," M.I.A. says early in the mixtape. It's a great slogan, sure, but it's also ridden with paradoxes, not to mention practically meaningless. So my ear instead focuses on the chaotic production, which melds videogame blips with tribal drums and lo-fi beats that wouldn't sound out of place on that freaky Gonjasufi album....full text
ArtistdirectM.I.A. released ViCKi LEEKX, a mixtape, on New Year's Eve. The 36-minute set features production by Diplo, Rusko, Switch and Blaqstarr, samples Nicki Minaj's "Straight from Sri Lanka" line on Kanye West's "Monster" and opens with a quote from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: "We choose the right format. We leak the information to the public, and we defend ourselves against inevitable legal and political attacks."...full text
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