By Steve Weinstein
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By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
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Still, the dust-up couldve blown over, but after M.I.A.s aggrieved overreaction (Tweeting Hirschbergs cell number), a Tea Partylike shout-down commenced that bedeviled her year. Pitchfork, after turning over its Twitter feed to M.I.A. in a pre-release publicity stunt, savaged Maya as a shambling mess that was anti-pop, suggesting fans were no longer willing to put up with her shit. Stereogum decried its obscurity. The Guardian, Q, and Urb recoiled. Her tastemaking pussy posse was heading for the exits. After glitches at a record-release show and Governors Island concert, even the Voices Sound of the City blog asked if M.I.A.s 2010 was cursed. Apparently not, since a story later appeared in December titled Redeeming M.I.A. (Stereogum belatedly recanted, as well.) This backlash to the backlash was certainly fueled by the musics undeniable merit, but it also reeked of impulsive, click-me-please grandstanding.
Maybe a revolt was inevitable for such a strident, trickster-ish pop star whose music aspires to be nothing less than global pirate radiostatic-y, disruptive, ephemeral, rump-shakin, code-breakin. Some suggested that the Vicki Leekx mixtape accomplished that goal more effectively than Mayagiving the raucous beats the flow of a DJ mix as M.I.A. flicked playful gibesbut it was simply less stressed-out, a sassier after-hours rumpus. The Vicki Leekx alias, for example, is so ingeniously sly because it transforms WikiLeaks founder and supervillainous will-o-the-wisp Julian Assange into the kookiest clubrat alter ego Nicki Minaj never envisioned. Vicki, at least on the surface, is more into dancing deliriously than dumping docsor maybe thats just an artful guise to evade critical capture.
Bottom line: Were their 30 better records in 2010 than Maya (or Vicki Leekx, for that matter, released well after Pazz & Jop voting closed)? Is Maya such a joyless slog compared to her earlier records, Arular (#2 in 2005) and Kala (#3 in 2007)? After all the authenticity litmus tests thrown at someone who was born in a war zone (which most of us couldnt find on a map) by desk jockeys who practice a profession thats basically a glorified work-release program, those questions remain moot. Too many people showed their asses. Back in August, I embraced Maya as a cause célèbre, but as the nonsense wore on, it became pointless to defend a record that people refused to hear.
So whats left to say? One answer lies in the always-relevant music-critic homage Mean Girls, when Plastic wannabe Cady pathetically asks outcast Janis Ian, Hey, are we still in a fight? To which Janis replies, eloquently speaking for M.I.A. fans worldwide, Are you still an asshole?