Almost a year on, let's have a bit of fun and look at the critical reception of M.I.A.'s mixtape Vicki Leekx.
Most critics make the mistake of approaching the material as an album, and even worse as an apology for /\/\ /\ Y /\ and an attempt to show that M.I.A. hadn't lost the magic of her universally-acclaimed first two albums. It is none of these. It's just a slap-dash mixtape, and that's all it's meant to be. And it's one of the most irresistibly danceable pieces of music - album, DJ set or otherwise - released in the past few years by anyone. As its engineers/mixers Nguzunguzu help explain, it was meant to be released straight after /\/\ /\ Y /\, and was meant to be a danceable counterpart to that deliberately disjointed and jarring album. It consists mostly of off-cuts from those sessions, and is contrastingly linear.
Neither is there any lyrical return to form; it's the same genius linguistic play, political and otherwise, that has been a common thread through all of M.I.A.'s work. As she says, "If you listen up/ You can hear me all day". She hasn't "found her sense of humour", having presumably lost it as some have claimed.
Sonically, Vicki Leekx is dominated by exquisite, richly textured beats similar to those of the high-tempo sections of Kala, with a bit of the low-fi, rough-and-ready feel of Kid 606 thrown in. It also draws less on external samples than M.I.A.'s other, less dance-oriented mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism.
I'd rank the following reviews in order of merit:
Village Voice (good)
Pop Matters (bonus points for pointing out the front-of-mix positioning of lead vocals whereas the opposite was the case on /\/\ /\ Y /\)
Muumuse (generally accurate)
The Music Network (nicely written)
Pitchfork (covers the field, well written)
Slant (mostly OK)
Indie Shuffle (OK-ish)
Sputnik Music (OK-ish)
Rebel Frequencies (politically focussed)
Thought Catalog (mostly lyrically focussed)
Expert Witness (vapid)
Spin (why did they bother?)
Rolling Stone (again, why did they bother?)
Serious Business Tunes (way off)