re:View – M.I.A’s Matangi

Music Review by Dan Featherstone.

Fresh from the controversy of her Super Bowl performance, M.I.A is back with her long-delayed album ‘Matangi’.

After her previous album, ‘Maya’, in 2010 left fans desperate for the British Sri-Lankan rapper to revisit the earlier sounds that first cemented her as a unique and liberal artist, ‘Matangi’ drips with instinct as it exploits the familiar electronic sounds that have exploded onto the charts earlier this year.

Lead single ‘Bring the Noize’ is a hard-tempo club anthem that infiltrates the spaces of this 90’s rave revival. With its hard synth it recalls ‘Arula’ and ‘Kala’, it’s here that demonstrates M.I.A as a pioneer in the genre.

M.I.A. takes the soundscapes from her previous albums and blends them into an album that’s constructed on a brilliant palette of sounds and of course, true to form, fuses political provocations.

It’s her own self-assertive persona that’s always been her most intriguing element as a performer. This causes conflictions, though, as the real shame of the album is its delayed release.

Some of the subtext now feels stale; like it’s only just been revisited before its release after a long duration being left on the shelf. For an artist that’s built a rap career on a foundation of social commentary, it’s damaging.

That said, the production on the album is nothing short of fantastic and makes many of the tracks feel very current.

It’s certainly a less abrasive collection and a lot easier to digest than its predecessor; her biggest problem still remains though with its dynamic.

The is best demonstrated by the first few songs, ‘Karamageddon’, ‘MATANGI’ and ‘Only 1 u’ as they struggle to best conceptualise the album.

Full of non-verbal hooks and messy political references, it’s a shaky start that makes you question whether there’s anything new here besides her somewhat over-worked and in-your-face notion for speaking out on social injustice.

Stick out for the ride though as the album does find its feet in the middle, with songs such as ‘Double Bubble Trouble’, ‘Come Walk With Me’ and ‘Warriors’ that are so fresh and genre-breaking, they reinforce that when M.I.A. can get it right, it’s pure perfection.

“Exodus” and it’s reprised “Sexodus” both sample The Weeknd’s “Lonely Star”. Finishing with the line “You can have it all…but baby what for?”. It’s haunting, and thematically juxtaposes with the heavy spitfire bars heard earlier on in the album.

The highlight of ‘Matangi’ is ‘Bad Girls’. With its fusion of Aranian synth and western electronica it stands rebellious and defiant.

Accompanied by THAT video released last year, it offers a delicious layering of textures with an important subtext. It establishes hegemony on those of the internet age to listen to her message; she certainly knows how to get it across.

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