M.I.A. – Matangi: Album Review

November 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

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After 8 years in the business, M.I.A. still remains the one of the most innovative and truly unapologetic (Rihanna who?) artists in the music industry. She has created her own musical lane by combining intensely catchy rhythms with serious political messages, some of which has cast a dark shadow upon her. In 2013, she’s ready to reclaim with bad-ass throne with her notoriously delayed fourth studio album Matangi. Named after the Hindu goddess of music (as well as her own real name), the new record draws world music-inspired notes from previous albums Arular and Kala while mixing the toughened electronic madness that was MAYA (which, if you think about it, is actually the Yeezus album before Yeezus even existed).

Karmaggedon” Matangi starts off with a political skit, titled Karmaggedon that finishes off with the line: “My words are my armor & you’re about to meet your karma.” Following is the album title track, “Matangi” – an exotic tune laden with Hindu-inspired chants. The production is expansive, but the lyrics don’t match its power as the artist names various countries like Somalia, Cuba, Morocco, Trinidad, Norway, etc. Overall, it has third-world vibes while throwing in some referential punchlines like, “You started at the bottom, but Drake gets all the credit.”

“Only 1 U” picks up where MAYA left off with its clanky production and jittery vocals, which all ends up sounding like M.I.A. let her son play with a  Fisher-Price musical keyboard in the studio (in the best way possible).

The Hit-Boy-produced “Warriors” – albeit intriguingly spooky, is kind of reductive from previous sounds found on the industrial-inspired MAYA. The heavy-handed bassline makes it suitable for any urban club, or Kanye West‘s next album. Not to mention the the braggadocio lyrics coming from the much-hated rapper: “Top dog even though I didn’t speak no English. Guess I got Grit cuz I suffer for my shit. Guess I came from the sticks and moved to the bricks.”

“Come Walk With Me” is M.I.A.’s take on cheesy, lovey-dovey pop music which she’s dabbled in before (see Kala‘s “Jimmy” and MAYA‘s “XXXO). It’s quite lovely until it changes to a crazed, worldly festive track around the 90-second mark that is completely energetic. The track will definitely be spun at every international music experience come 2014.

The record shifts gears with the moody “Exodus,” which features a “Lonely Star” sample from The Weeknd‘s second mixtape Thursday. M.I.A. almost mocks Tesafye’s heartfelt “Baby you can have it all” lyrics with the counteracting question: “Tell me what for?” The song takes a break from all the glitchy, computerized production found on Matangi and makes way for a dark and sensuous mid-tempo.

Next comes “Bad Girls” – the swagged-out anthem that started it all. It first premiered on the Vicki Leekx mixtape back in 2010 and immediately became one of the best songs of the rapper’s career (with a pretty dope music video to match). There’s not much to say about this song, other than the fact that three years later it’s still everyone’s favorite song.

“Boom Skit” is a cheeky message to her naysayers that was a long time coming. From being banned in America by then-president George W. Bush for being a “terrorist” to her loud-mouthed arguments about the Tamil Tigers and her middle finger controversy from the Superbowl with FOX. She raps, “You know America don’t wanna hear your sound. Boom boom jungle music. Go back to India. With your crazy shit, you’re bombing up the area. Looking through your Instagram. Looking for a pentagram.”

One of the highlights of Matangi is no doubt “Double Bubble Trouble” – a fiery, ragga-tinged tune stabbed with wild synths that would make Diplo proud (if they were still on speaking terms). Interestingly enough, the track is produced by the reggae-loving EDM duo from Amsterdam who call themselves The Partysquad (they’re signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label, FYI). The song ends up cutting off too short at just under 3 minutes.

“Y.A.L.A.” serves as the rapper’s karmic new single that takes a jab at Drake‘s infamous phrase that took over 2012. The dancehall-inspired synths. It embodies her famous nonchalant rapping style mixed with wild and jittery effects. One word to describe it: Dope. Following is the similar “Bring The Noize” – a bombastic, club-ready tune with its Street Fighter-sounding production.

Mantagi, while less sonically confused than its album predecessor, doesn’t drive home eye-opening political messages like her first two albums did (there’s no “Galang,” “Sunshowers”, “Paper Planes” or “$20” found here). Instead, M.I.A. chose to present her perception of what her music should be like without any manicuring, and in its purest form yet. The album is sharp, anxious and leaves you with surprises as sound effects whirl, rip and spin through a standard musical blueprint. Matangi no doubt proves, just like the Hindu goddess she and the album are named after, that M.I.A. continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Songs On Repeat
“Exodus”
“Bad Girls”
“Double Bubble Trouble”
“Y.A.L.A.”

Songs To Skip
“Matangi”
“Lights”

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