M.I.A.
Matangi


4.2
excellent

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
November 11th, 2013 | 78 replies


Release Date: 11/05/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: M.I.A.'s coming back with power power.

M.I.A.'s fourth full-length arrives nearly a year late in the wake of numerous disputes between the Sri-Lankan artist and Universal. The problem with the forthcoming endeavor seemed easy to decipher as yet another attempt at making the music as commercially viable as possible. After all, Maya Arulpragasam's previous offering was an uncompromising take on the Internet era that baffled many listeners with its abrasive mesh-up of various styles and overall disdain for melody. To everyone's astonishment, though, the main gripe the record company reportedly had with the new M.I.A. output was that it sounded “too positive.” As understandable as Universal's intentions to cash on Arulpragasam as a rebelious, anti-establishment pop icon may be, these circumstances clearly reflect an insatiable desire of large record labels to tarnish any sense of artistic ingenuity and progress. Thankfully, the singer hasn't yielded to Universal's demands, releasing the album that's artistically credible rather than calculated.

Despite the delay, Matangi certainly doesn't sound dated as it relies on contributions from producers in the upper echelon of current pop charts. Most notably, her long-time partner-in-crime Switch is responsible for the disc's most ferocious cuts, while Doc McKinney of the Weeknd smooths over the presentation in its final stretch. Whether M.I.A. collaborates with R&B producer Danja or the hip hop-affiliated Hit-Boy, her signature brand of Hindu-tinged electronica unmistakably shines through. Much like her previous outings Matangi revolves around an off-kilter sonic palette. The album's impressive stew of noises involves trumpeting electronics, hazy synths, jangling rhythms, frenzied bursts of sub-bass and discordant Bollywood samples.

The singer's voice also gets a special treatment, being subjected to the cutting-edge rhythmic manipulation on 'Bring The Noize' which works equally well as a pounding party banger and a subversive mission statement. The militant drum fills propel the fractured onslaught of 'Warriors,' whereas 'Come Walk With Me' deceptively kicks off with a bubblegum pop melody only to burst into a barrage of atonal beats. 'aTENTion' curiously sees Arulpragasam reciting the multitude of words that rhyme with “tent” to the 90s garage inspired arrangement and a series of playful samples to bracing effect. 'Bad Girls' is much more potent thematically with its middle finger pointed at the Saudi Arabian laws that don't allow women wearing a niqab to drive. It's a daring anthem of female empowerment that stands out from the pack owing to its infectious hook and sinister atmosphere. Elsewhere, 'Y.A.L.A,' whose title stands for “you always live again,” is a cheeky repartee to the favored T-shirt acronym. “Y.O.L.O…what that even mean though? / back home where I come from we keep being born again…,” M.I.A. proclaims in the track's finale.

Amid all its bombast and abrasiveness, Matangi ventures into more subdued songcraft that's not only demonstrated in a less hectic sound, but also in a more varied approach to vocals. Instead of defiantly rapping, M.I.A. confidently sings on many occasions, revealing her vulnerable incarnation to a greater extent than ever before. She lends the smooth vocals to the dub swing of 'Double Bubble Trouble' and the coy falsetto to the wonderfully stripped-down 'Lights.' The most affecting moment, however, comes with the hook-laden R&B of 'Know It Ain't Right.' These mellowed-out numbers enrich the listening experience, creating a sense of intimacy that's been largely absent from the artist's previous output. At points her lyrics may be devoid of substance, but the superlative production keeps the songs engrossing. The sole exception is closer 'Sexodus' that fails to distinguish itself from the mystical 'Exodus.'

While many pop singers settle on the lowest common denominator, M.I.A. stays ahead of the curve. Her career-defining achievement Kala remains unmatched, yet the new album is nearly as appealing with its balanced collection of club-ready jams that dare to be distinctive in the realm of current pop music. At once highly inventive and unabashedly fun, Matangi showcases the trailblazing pop star at her most expansive thus far. M.I.A. adroitly capitalizes on her established style, embellishing it with moments of genuine intimacy. On 'Boom Skit' she implies she was accused of "stealing Madonna's crown" after her notorious Superbowl performance. I for one have nothing against it.




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user ratings (179)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
Ryan Hoffman (3.5)
While not quite as good as the compositions she made at the peak of her career, Matangi proves that ...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
BigTuna
November 10th 2013


5160 Comments


aTENTion is really fucking annoying, but I'm digging the rest so far

Digging: Yellowcard - Lift a Sail

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
November 10th 2013


7026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Saudi women aren't allowed to drive regardless of what they are wearing.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2013


31362 Comments


Yes, but does her booty lie?

Digging: Objekt - Flatland

mindleviticus
November 10th 2013


8292 Comments


WTF I thought mia was like a pop punk band

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2013


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Haha. Of course, it doesn't.

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

Slut
November 10th 2013


2470 Comments


so excited to listen to this. great review

robin
Emeritus
November 10th 2013


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

MIA is a visionary

Acanthus
November 10th 2013


9543 Comments


She's always been interesting, kudos for the great writeup greg!

Digging: The Knife - Deep Cuts

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2013


10284 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah nice work Greg, I like when you cover this style of music. This is one of my favorite reviews of yours

oltnabrick
November 10th 2013


31093 Comments


hmmm I want to hear this. Heard there are tracks with the Weeknd.

Digging: Ariel Pink - Pom Pom

IrrationalAnimal
November 10th 2013


77 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

shine on brotha

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

gryndstone
November 10th 2013


342 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Other than aTENTtion (who thought that was a good idea) this is growing on me a LOT

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Taxt
November 11th 2013


658 Comments


Gotta check this out, great review

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


6203 Comments


Jamming this for the first and last time, the folk thing in her music sounds great but it's pushed at the corner. The sound collaging in most songs is childish at best.

I'll go listen to Ulver's Perdition City to wash this off my ears haha.

Digging: Seduced (AT) - The Proclamation

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Thanks a bunch, guys.

I love aTENTtion. It makes me feel stoned even though I'm not. It's a great example of how to use an online rhyming dictionary to write your lyrics. Aspiring songwriters... you know what to do when you have a writer's block, and you want to get your creative juices flowing.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

I didn't expect you to like it, Voivod. It's a pop record after all no matter how inventive it may be. I think the production is amazing on this one, and this clashing thing you mentioned is done really well. I've been a fan of hers since I first heard Kala.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


6203 Comments


I don't know man, when I see the term "pop", I think of the '80s and the '90s. After that, computers fucked up the genre completely.

I liked "Bad Girls" though, it's a decent song.

Chrisjon89
November 11th 2013


3734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i gotta listen again before I rate - this was my first MIA album. pretty full on so i gotta give it some more atTENTion. Bad Girls is far and away my favourite.

i preferred Kala based on one listen.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


7421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Kala's better than this, but this is her 2nd best imo.

mvood
November 11th 2013


818 Comments


M-I-A COMING BACK WITH POWA POWA



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