The last time Maya Arulpragasam released an album, she was “knocking on the door of your Hummer” and slinging the “nah-nah-nah” verbal taunts of the developing world’s disenfranchised women and children. Capturing attention—and, it follows, power—with incessant, culture-fusing clamor seemed like the overriding goal of 2007’s Kala. One Judd Apatow trailer, a Grammy performance, and a French-fry scandal later, the mission has been accomplished. All eyes are on her. Now what?
Unsurprisingly (and happily), M.I.A. the insider is more dyspeptic than M.I.A. the outsider. Maya’s opening romp, “Steppin Up,” brings the braggadocio expected from a rapper following a massive hit (“You know who I am, I run this fucking club”), but it’s buried beneath power-drill samples and Ministry guitars. “Teqkilla” allures with a DJ-battle intro and Bollywood-via-Timbaland clank before plunging into a six-minute fever of rude synth burps and an unintelligible, indigestible, unforgettable chorus about “sticky, sticky weeeed.” M.I.A. comes close to recreating the lackadaisical bubblegum sway of “Paper Planes” with “It Iz What It Iz,” but doesn’t bother to enunciate the verses. Even in Maya’s slightly slumping middle third, she wages a pop insurgency by somersaulting between genres, sympathizing with suicide-bomber spouses and obsessing over how technology democratizes and distracts. Conspiracy-addled claustrophobic noises swath the hooks throughout, revealing the intoxicating assuredness of a star who sought the spotlight in order to barrage it with glitter and shrapnel.