Thursday, January 9, 2014

Matangi | M.I.A.

Rating: ★★★★☆

M.I.A. has been in the business for a while, but not much of her work has ever interested me. This being said, last year when she dropped "Bad Girls" and I later heard parts from Matangi, she started to grasp my attention. After listening to a lot of the cuts from the album on YouTube and liking most of them, I went out on a whim and ordered a copy of Matangi while it was on sale. It was a snap-decision to get it while I could, but I'm really glad that I did. 

The entire album runs off electronic and trap beats (usually combined into the term trip-hop, if I'm not mistaken) with spoken raps over them, which tends to be the only rap I listen to. "Bad Girls," which was lifted as the album's first single, brings some Middle Eastern influences into this mix on Matangi and was a moderate success online. Produced by Danja, who worked on songs with Britney Spears and P!nk previously, the song sparks a mix of Bollywood and electronic music, much like Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It" did. The lyrics are okay, with the chorus using the cliché "Live fast, die young" before exclaiming "Bad girls do it well / My chain hits my chest when I'm banging on the dashboard / My chain hits my chest when I'm banging on the radio."

The title track "MATANGI," (which is stylized in all caps although the title of the album isn't, for some reason) also holds these Indian vibes, while M.I.A. also adds in some flairs of her culture again lyrically. I'm assuming she's speaking in another language as she says "Immina immina thana thana / Ingana ingana gina gina" (I've read that they are words originating from the language Tamil, but I'm not one-hundred percent sure), and then she ends the hook with "Matangi," which is the name of a Hindu goddess. 

"Y.A.L.A." takes the phrase "Y.O.L.O." and throws it out the window, as M.I.A. shows off Hindu roots saying "Y.O.L.O.? I don’t even know anymore, what that even mean though / If you only live once why we keep doing the same shit / Back home where I come from we keep being born again and again and again / That’s why they invented karma." Some of the lyrics throughout the song are almost laughable ("Yeah we come come come / Yeah we come with some some / Get a glass of rum") while others refer to strippers on a pole ("Go low, go slow / Roll like a polo / Up and down a pole / Like you’re glowing up a yo-yo"). Once she proclaims "Alarms go off when I enter the building," a banging trap beat kicks in and give the song a whole new life.

Another great breakdown comes in with "Only 1 U," where M.I.A. says "There's only one you, you, you" before repeating "ding" like a ringing bell at a wrestling match. The final ding jump-starts a trip-hop beat that has a few elements that are similar to the instrumental track on Lil Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot." (Don't ask how I know that.) You'll find some great beats in "Bring the Noize" as well, which heavily relies on some strong drums and... well, just a lot of loud, noisy sounds in general. (I guess that's where the title came from, eh?)

Fans of electronic or trap music are going to love this album. It's reminiscent of the type of music that Azealia Banks has been putting out, but Banks seems to hold strong with clean club beats while M.I.A. leans towards noisier sounds. What I especially loved about Matangi is the emphasis on the production. Sometimes, I would forget that it is supposed to be a rap album because I was too distracted with the great beats. Matangi was a great listen, and although it wasn't a commercial success, I hope that doesn't deter M.I.A. from making another album like this.

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