M.I.A. - 'Matangi' - One of this year's most unique albums
A long time coming…
Along with Tinie Tempah’s Demonstration, Matangi is another album out this week that has suffered a number of delays and setbacks on the way to its release, but the stories behind each couldn’t be more different. In Tinie’s case, it was reportedly the artist’s choice to delay the release.
M.I.A., on the other hand, has by all accounts, been positively itching to get Matangi into stores, publicly claiming that she has re-submitted the album to her label, Interscope, more than once, saying that the label kept rejecting it because it was ‘too positive’ for her bad girl image. By the time August rolled around, the singer was becoming so frustrated she even threatened via Twitter to leak the whole album and make a new one if Interscope didn’t confirm a release date soon. Thankfully, whatever the reasons for the dispute, Matangi finally dropped this week…and it’s quite a piece of work.
Who’s at the controls?
With 15 tracks in all, there are production credits for Switch, Hit-Boy, The Partysquad, Doc McKinney, Surkin and Danja, as well as M.I.A. herself. The result is a frenetic, genre-busting epic of a record that takes in everything from bhangra to hip-hop. Matangi doesn’t so much blend genres together as smash them into one another and gleefully clap its hands at the ensuing destruction. That might sound chaotic…well, it is chaotic…but it’s also absolutely thrilling.
What are the highlights?
Matangi begins serenely enough; the gentle sitars and Indian-style drones that usher in ‘Karmageddon’ briefly lull the listener into a false sense of security before the electro-Bollywood mash-up of a title track bounces into life. The next 12 minutes or so that also take in ‘Only 1 U’ and ‘Warriors’ are a bit of an onslaught, with beats, verses and choruses that constantly morph from one style and pace to another, incorporating so many influences it’s difficult to keep track. By the time ‘Come Walk With Me’ arrives, it feels like a breather for about a minute and a half before we’re off again with a stomping kick drum and chopped-up vocals.
‘Exodus’ is the first of two tracks featuring Canadian R&B artist The Weeknd, reprised at the end of the album with ‘Sexodus’, and it’s one of the more radio-friendly cuts on the record, along with the single ‘Bad Girls’. ‘Bring The Noize’ is another of the album’s highlights, kicking off with its machine-gun vocal slices and featuring a breakneck-speed rap from M.I.A.
What’s the verdict?
Matangi is one of the most unique, challenging and original albums you will hear this year, in any genre. It is disorientating at times and might be too intense a listening experience for some, but credit where it’s due: M.I.A. is a singular artist in the pop / R&B landscape right now, and Matangi sets her apart from her peers. There are hundreds of adjectives you could throw at this record, but if you can wrap your head around everything that’s happening on this album, it’s well worth the effort.