Jonathan Dean’s Review of “/\/\/\Y/\” by M.I.A.

MIA album

Artist: M.I.A.

Album: /\/\/\Y/\

Critic: Jonathan Dean

Tiny Mix Tapes, 2010

Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Jargon Palsy, Toxic Tedium

Irony: “attempting to mask its own vacuity by trading on the readymades of authenticity”



Being an editor for Tiny Mix Tapes must be the easiest job in the world. I’d been suspicious all along, but this latest glob of gristle really drove it home. Y’all work weekends doing absolutely nothing, or is it strictly 9:00 to 5:00? I’d be amazed if you clowns even check the band name before publishing a review. I guess it all looks the same on a résumé.


Even though a fourth grader could have edited this stinker better than “Jay” in the editing department, you’re the one who wrote it, Jon. Blame’s on your shoulders. How much longer did you spend writing this junk than listening to the album? I don’t get the impression you burned many of those hard hours editing, focusing arguments, or choosing words judiciously. When you write for a zine with D-Team quality assurance, responsibility starts and ends with you, but you dropped the ball…hard.


Jon, bear in mind that Tiny Mix Tapes does nothing to jazz up text. No pictures, barely any links — just paragraph after boring paragraph of word junk. You were already one of the most long-winded critics I’d encountered when I first featured you, and it looks like nothing’s changed. When the body of your review leaves sidebar elements in the dust, it’s usually a good indication you should wind things down.


So many sentences were ripe for picking, but here’s a slice off your first paragraph to start:


“Because of her willful and calculated aestheticization of the subaltern — third-world poverty, radical politics, terrorism, and guerilla warfare — her critics have consistently sought to derive a coherent politics from M.I.A.’s postmodern dance pop.”


I’ve got a lot here, Jon, so I’ll break it down piecemeal. I want you to start by thinking of the words “willful” and “calculated.” Something calculated is willful by definition, wouldn’t you say? You could have plucked two feathers off this fat chicken by omitting the redundant one. A few hundred more and you might have had a hot meal instead of a feathery bowel movement. Next:


“derive a coherent politics”


I’m sure folks will rush to your defense on this one, but I’ve never heard a dude say he’s going to run for office because of “a politics.” That sounds weird, and I just figured it was a typo until I caught “an ethics” en route to “a politics” once again in the last paragraph. Maybe I just don’t have a chops for pairing plural nouns with singular indefinite articles, but I still think it’s needlessly confusing. Next:


“aestheticization of the subaltern”


Jon, if that’s even a word, it shouldn’t be. Forget about belting it three times fast — try saying “aestheticization” once out loud. Just once…try it. Since you used some form of the word “aesthetic” six times in this review, you really could have left that clunker home. Instead, you dropped the same deuce in your closing paragraph with two other silly words ending in -ation.






Jon, has it ever crossed your mind that maybe music (or writing) isn’t best served by such retarded shop talk? If you’re going to make up words to explain how a woman’s music didn’t rev your engine, try keeping them under 21 letters.


I know, I know. Brevity’s not your thing. I mean, how could it be? A dude who carped on this album for “lurid didacticism” and “telling rather than showing” couldn’t possibly sink to such an uncouth level of understanding. Well bravo, Jon. In the salmon run to bash this album in the most roundabout way, you definitely edged ahead of your peers. It never ceases to amaze me when I see music critics ream artists for sub-par writing…with sub-par writing. Here’s one of my favorite bits:


“The Message” emphasizes the hyper-stimulation and over-connectedness of post-smartphone reality in a particularly clumsy, ham-fisted way”


Oh, but writing four hyphenated compounds in 20 words is graceful, Jon? And aren’t we still IN the smartphone reality? No one calls the invasion of Poland a “postwar” event or Full House a “post-television” show. That’s dumb.


I could bury your essay in red ink all night long, but I think the worst part is the way you constructed it. I feel like a broken record complaining about music critics never using the word “I,” but this time it just got completely out of hand. The way I see it, the only thing worse than writing absolute statements in the 3rd person about an album is making your narrator unsure of himself:


“it cannot help but seem”


“it seems an irresistible temptation”


“seemingly formulated to frustrate”


“seems to fall apart by design”


“seems paradoxically to emerge”


Jon, dropping “seems” that much in an album review written like a definitive treatise just gives the impression you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. And isn’t that the whole point of omitting yourself from your own opinion, to sound like you know what you’re talking about? Like a journalist? Well, kudos to you for giving the media an even worse reputation. But hey, at least it’s not truffle fries.

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