Published Nov 05, 2013M.I.A.'s new album Matangi could be called shrill, grating, bratty. But has that ever been a problem when it comes to sparkling, stellar pop?
Channeling an energy that's tons of fun while digging deep into a kaleidoscopic range of music, Maya Arulpragasam dispatches whatever memories of truffle fries and questionable videos you might have with an album that should be played at full volume, even at its most relaxed. From the kickoff "Karmageddon" to the appropriately named "Bring the Noize" and the relaxed head-nod-inducing "Lights," the whole thing is loud, brash and terrific.
Lodged in the centre of the album, the tune "Bad Girls" stands up; it's as good today as it was 2012. Way back then, MIA was called out for a video and a major television performance, which sounds familiar, given the 2013 discussions surrounding appropriation (and inappropriateness) in the music of Lorde, Miley and Rihanna. But unlike those other ladies, this gal is fully grown — no Y.O.L.O. here (shade tossed at Drake is strangely satisfying), but "Y.A.L.A.": "You Always Live Again."
So here she is, on her fourth album, embattled (whether by the press or resulting from her bitter marriage split) but still experimenting, creating exciting music that, if the world is fair, should make its way onto the charts. She's gotten in trouble enough so far, so this badness seems more effortless. It doesn't quite look as teenage, as tough or as testy as the young'uns and that's ok.
Sure, you could pick apart the lyrics for days — whether she's shouting out country names or calling out "we're putting them in a trance" followed up with "worries in the dance" — Matangi isn't what you'd call controversial, but given the constant attention to M.I.A.'s politics, even when she's playful, she's challenging what it means to draw together sounds, identities and ideas.
All the Hit-Boy offerings are terrific (check "Warrior" for an example), and it's particularly nice to hear some pop produced by Switch, whose departure from Major Lazer was, based on his work here, that project's loss. His drum-and-bass-driven "Attention" is a treat, and on "Exodus" and the reprieve "Sexodus," it's pleasant to hear a woman's voice where one would normally find the not-exactly-female-friendly strains of the Weeknd.
All in all, the disses, weird comments, glitchyness, folky bits and ravey big bass — among many other sundry bits and pieces — come together to create something that will make many people dance. This doesn't sound like an album as much as a terrifically curated DJ set—and that's more than okay. (Interscope)