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In 2007, 32-year-old Mathangi Arulpragasam aka MIA, became a worldwide phenomenon when Rolling Stone Magazine rated her 2007 album, Kala as the best album of the year. Arulpragasam went on to win more than one Grammy nomination for her single 'Paper Planes.' Two years later, she made it onto Times Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
M.I.A. quickly became a household name as she continually tried to push musical boundaries with an aggressive, revolutionary game face. Her labelled global influence stems from her work in various fields, ranging from visual design to political activism and the music scene.
Lately, as M.I.A. has been busy trying to push her 'radical' political stance, criticism has hit her full force. Not only has there been a high level of controversy surrounding her violence-fuelled music video for 'Born Free,' but in attempt to combat her New York Times cover story– which criticised her as nothing more than a talker– she published the journalist’s cell phone number on her personal twitter account.
Released on July 13th by her own record label, Maya attempts to drive home the artist's desire for kicking up a fuss outside the main stream box. Though the artist’s messages are a continued call for hope and peace throughout the world, she leaves little more than a mess in her wake. And why was the album titled as a supposed typographic equivalent to her name, which is nearly impossible to search for? Oh-so cool.
The opening track, 'The Message' is only the beginning of the album’s constant looping and repetitive beats. The lyrics, describing the government’s leash on the digital world, are nothing new.
M.I.A. takes her trademark ferocity down a notch, leaving the violence and drugs behind on ‘XXXO’, where the constant electro-punk feel that drowns the album is replaced for a moment by a pop-grinding club tune.
'Tell Me Why' rounds up the album in an attempt to ask some philosophical questions, reflecting her supposedly forward, revolutionary attitude; but it ends up sounding more like silly banter. The over-digitalised vocals don’t help her out either.
With two successful albums in her wake, this album seems nothing more than noise. Creatively, some ideas are lurking about; but the implementation is a whole different story.
One Direction’s supposed hit, ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, returns to an earlier pop era belonging to the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync; prior to when electronic sounds ruled the scope of the musical landscape. This song is relaxed and clichéd, with lyrics that express young love using cheesy and inoffensive ways of expressing it.
The album fails to show any diversity or musical flair where the songs seem to flow in the same direction (pun unintended), regardless of whether it’s a ‘happy’ or ’sad’ song. Almost identical drum variations and snares are paired with guitar riffs and piano pieces to form the backbone of most of the tracks. The songs do, however, vary lyrically where ‘More Than This’ paints a wholesome heartbroken picture; the exact opposite of the overly energetic ‘Up All Night’.
From the start, it’s been obvious that the cards hold a love-them-or-hate-them future for One Direction. Their insanely questionable popularity is likely to triple the criticism they get, especially for those who aren’t particularly taken by them.
However, compared to a lot of the painfully bad music we hear these days, with offbeat vocals and cacophonic music compositions, One Direction may head in the right direction (pun intended) if only they’d work hard on moving away from the flock.
Dutch producer, Tijs Michiel Verwest – who you’ll know better as Tiësto – has become a household name throughout his career as one of the best trance producers, constantly flirting with the line between artistically good and crowd pleasing. His latest release, A Town Called Paradise, unfortunately, goes miles beyond that line.
The album features an impressive 18 tracks, 15 of which feature vocalists. Some of the best produced albums benefit from a stable, underlying theme, but not to the point where you can’t distinguish songs from each other, as is with the case with A Town Called Paradise.
There’s very little trance to be heard on the album, if any at all. If you were a fan of the In Search of Sunrise series, or any of Tiësto albums, you’re in for disappointment.
The first four tracks of the album, including the title track, are absolutely indistinguishable from any other EDM you would hear on the radio; abrasive synthesizers, meaningless chorus, throw your hands in the air and wait for the drop.
‘Written in Reverse’ is the first track on the album that indulges, using a very short electro-like hook that is over faster than you can realise what happened. The next song, ‘Echoes’, featuring singer Andreas Moe, who you may recognise from Avicii’s ‘Fade Into Darkness’ and utilises more electro influences, but is quite short-lived.
It really doesn’t get much better from there. Actually, saying it “doesn’t get much better” implies it was decent at some point which is a big fat lie. It’s horrendous. You’re constantly listening to cheesy EDM lines followed by awful, noisy drops. There is little musical value, and little to distinguish any of the tracks from each other. Diving into specific songs seems a little redundant, besides maybe ‘Rocky’, which sounds suspiciously similar to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, and ‘Shimmer’, featuring returning singer Christian Burns, who you’ll remember from Tiesto’s ‘In the Dark’ or Armin Van Buuren’s ‘This Light Between Us’.
Disappointing and, quite frankly, tedious, A Town Called Paradise is not just a mindless crowd-pleaser, but an exasperating and often irritating one. If you’re a fan of regurgitated, sub-par music and lyrics, this is the album and artist for you. We want that hour of our lives back.