I’m already about a week late on this new M.I.A. album but when it comes to album reviews, it’s better late than never. I came into my first listening of this album with high expectations seeing that her debut and second albums were both strong efforts. I figured that M.I.A. would have matured musically and that I was in store for a groundbreaking, landmark album that would completely make me reassess my musical ideals. Plainly speaking, I was expecting greatness.

However, Maya, M.I.A.’s third studio album made me realize how naïve I can be at times. Contrary to popular opinion, I feel that Maya is far from a great album and doesn’t quite stack up to her first two albums, as a whole, in terms of quality. Maya can be characterized as flashes of brilliance and streaks of dismal darkness. Every four or so tracks is musically akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s a roller coaster ride of genre-bending, electronic, music that ultimately leaves you pleased at the good tracks on the album and enormously livid at the unpleasant tracks that accompany the excellent.

Since this album is so bi-polar, let me review it one side at a time. The good about Maya is fantastic. More rhythmic compositions over far more melodic vocals show finesse in M.I.A.’s approach. This finesse doesn’t diminish from M.I.A.’s rough-around-the-edges punk persona, but instead shows that there is another facet to M.I.A.’s musical talent than unrelenting dance beats and political finger pointing. M.IA. is not a good rapper by any stretch of the imagination, but M.I.A. doesn’t try to play herself up as one. Her lyrics get the job done, and are revered more so for their striking messages than the thought of them being ridiculously complicated or intricate. The reason that I mention this at all is that on Maya, M.I.A. sings a lot more than she raps. This is great because M.I.A. is a far more versatile artist when she is singing.  Upbeat dance flavored songs like “XXXO”, “Internet Connection”, “Steppin Up” and “Illygirl” seem as though they were well thought out and planned before they were recorded and bubble with the spirit of M.I.A.’s unique, neo-pop flavor. The slower more metrical songs like “It Takes A Muscle”, “It Iz What It Iz”, “Tell Me Why”, “Space”, and “Caps Lock” are utterly brilliant. It’s a style of music I wish M.I.A. would exercise with more. Her same indescribable essence permeates the songs just the same as with her upbeat records but her slower songs have a sizeable, more emotional weight than her bubbly offerings. For an artist so charged and inspired by her political beliefs, I can only hope M.I.A. takes her music more in the slower, planned direction.

Thankfully, the bad aspects of Maya are overshadowed by the good, but they still leave me scratching my head. Six out of the sixteen songs on Maya are completely useless. “Teqkilla”, “Lovalot”, “Story To Be Told”, “Born Free” “Meds and Feds”, and “Believer” are all jumbled messes of misguided innovation and originality. None of those songs feel like one sound connects to the next. I can’t even stand to listen to them anymore because they’re just so awful. There is not much to say about them other than that it seems that M.I.A. and her familiar team of producers Diplo, Switch, and Rusko just got too carried away with the production machinery.

So, those six songs could have really put Maya in the dumps, but the rest of the album is so excellent that it can easily go excused. Still, it is disappointing that the album wasn’t as complete as it should be.  Because the album jumps constantly from splendid to substandard, I can only give it three Sri Lankan flags out of Five. It was a bit disappointing but hopefully M.I.A. can capitalize on the good elements found in Maya in her next album.