By Rachel Habib
Special to The Hoya
Published: Friday, November 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 00:11
M.I.A.’s Matangi is an album four years in the making. With a release delayed for over 12 months due to disagreements between the artist and her record label,Interscope, Matangi has a lot of hype to live up to. M.I.A. has described the album as “spiritual,” titling it after the Hindu goddess of music, and the majority of the album dwells in this lofty world. As always with M.I.A., however, she is at her best when she steps back down to earth.
Matangi’s starting track, “Karmageddon,” lacks the impact typical in an M.I.A. opener. Slow and dreamy, the song effectively sets the tone for the rest of the album. Gone are the winding synths and sharp political commentary from 2010’s MAYA, yet M.I.A. hasn’t made a full return to the masterful sounds she displayed in Arular (2005) and Kala(2007). The first half of the album drags on, with tracks like “Only 1 U” and “aTENTion” existing in a realm somewhere between M.I.A.’s success of the past and the sounds of the present.
The album’s most bizarre components come with “Exodus” and “Sexodus,” two songs with identical lyrics. While the concept is interesting, it falls flat in its execution, as the music in the two tracks is almost identical as well. Both songs are credited as a collaboration with R&B artist The Weeknd, but his influence is difficult to identify, his vocals only echo faintly in the background. Given the lengthy amount of time it took to record Matangi, it is almost shocking that both tracks made it on to the final version.
Previously released in early 2012 as part of the Vicki Leekx mixtape, “Bad Girls” is the album’s standout track. Powered by the aggressive lyrics and multicultural beats that have become M.I.A.’s standard, the track was a breakout hit. In classic M.I.A. fashion, it was accompanied by a controversial music video, pushing the single to even greater popularity. After almost two years, and the song still feels fresh. “Bad Girls” is also the album’s most traditional pop sounding track, and it seems as if M.I.A.’s struggle to reach a more spiritual sound limited her potential.
Like with “Bad Girls,” Matangi’s other successes are rooted in identifiable influences. “Warriors” is reminiscent of past M.I.A. songs like “Bird Flu” and “Lovalot” and sounds like it could easily belong on one of her previous albums. “Double Bubble Trouble” and “Y.A.L.A.” contain beats that sound like they were crafted by trap artists such as Flosstradamus or D.J. Snake. “Bring The Noize” has all the energy present on the tracks from MAYA coupled with a cleaner sound.
M.I.A. has always put a lot of emphasis on her albums titles, and intentionally or not, they tell an interesting story. Arular and Kala were named after her father and mother, respectively. The albums found the artist creating and perfecting a new and unique sound, born out of the influence of a plethora of cultures and musical genres. Following the unexpected success of “Paper Planes,” MAYAwas named after the artist herself. Containing harsher sounds and controversial lyrics, the album almost seemed a dare directed at the hordes of listeners who jumped on the bandwagon — either they could like the real M.I.A. or they could jump off.
And now comes Matangi. The album certainly lives up to its spiritual name. She spends the majority ofMatangi drifting around, displaying her self-proclaimed lack of care about the music industry. After a highly influential and talked about career, perhaps M.I.A. deserves a trip into another world. But we can only hope that her next album finds her reborn back to earth, and that it doesn’t take another four years to do so.