Generally speaking, everyone who is aware of her has an opinion about M.I.A and her musical career, and with this, her fourth album, one can't help to think that she has not only continued her self aware post modern attitude to music production, but also delved further into the subject matters with which she is working with.
The album itself is a more 'basic' mixing that her previous albums. It is here though, with its minimalism of simpler layers, that one finds a clearer and less frantic M.I.A., improving on Kala as far as I'm concerned, and finding a new direction for M.I.A to take with her work. The album plays as one play, carefully mixing itself and maintaining a good overall sound, unlike her previous efforts, which often jolt from track to track, waking the listener. It is partially here that I must commend M.I.A's efforts, as once you start the album, either from the start or on a random favourite, it is hard to move away from it in favour of something else.
My only added note to this review is that the album is worth getting on CD. Whilst I happily converted to the digital downloads a few years ago in favour of a more eco friendly way of listening to music, as well as enjoying the benefit of paying less, I have had to roll back technology in favour of this album. Matangi has an amazing use of drum sounds, all recorded brilliantly, along with M.I.A's voice, which slides in and out with precision edits. If you have a top quality hifi, then this album deserves to be played on it on CD, rather than via an ipod dock.
MIA has always been my favourite music artist and this album definitely keeps up to scratch with the likes of her previous albums. My favourite songs on the album are Karmageddon, Warriors, Come Walk With Me, Bad Girls, Boom Skit, YALA and Bring the Noize. Each of the songs has their own personal flair, I have not stopped listening to this album since I bought it. The talent on this album is amazing and its very easy to get into all of the songs! A must buy 4th album for the wonderfully talented MIA
MIA is one of those artists who if I rated on her singing voice alone wouldn't fare too well but music is about expression, vision and emotion and she ticks all the boxes for me. There are some really impressive tracks on this album and I strongly admire her playing by her own rules and refusing to conform to what the mainstream thinks is 'in' at any given moment. She's a strong artist and this is the first album of hers I've bought so for me she's improving as her career evolves.
Although much of this album's wonderful sound is obviously down to the producers talents more than the artist herself and the fact that her lyrics maybe a little off at the best of times, without M.I.A the producers never would've been pushed to create something so unique - one of the best albums of the year by far. She may not be the most talented when it comes to rapping or singing but she definitely has something to offer the music industry in the way she's blended so much religion, culture and influence together and brought it to a somewhat commercial level.
It starts with 1)Karmageddon - a very dark, reverberated track that ends with the lyric "ain't Dalai Lama, ain't Sai Baba, My words are my armor and you're 'bout to meet your karma" which almost seems like a calm before the storm, a lyrical anticipation and introduction into the massive boom of..
2)Matangi, with pace-making yelps prominent in the beat and an ear-piercing screech let off every now and then - a track that lists and unites various countries at random to the dance floor. The track like many others on the album, towards the end, breaks out into an eastern instrumental section with trademark tribal drums and percussion inclusive. There's a lyric that I love and it's the first hit out at Drake and it goes "we started at the bottom but Drake gets all the credit."
The next song 3)Only 1 U with no surprise - has some strange, some egotistical and occasionally a little bit of what I assume to be sentimental vocals, all very cut up and highly effected. These are placed on top of a beat that includes boxing ring bells, electric static buzzing and towards the end another indian vocal sample section. An example of the strange being "Lara Croft is soft when it comes my stuff. She's made up, I'm real".
The beginning of 4)Warriors (after the Ohhmm) is a sample from an obscure spanish 90s dance song 'Asi me gusta a mí' and the concept of 'Warriors in the Dance' lyric i believe is taken from 'Worries in the Dance' by Frankie Paul. The section at about 1:50 where she raps over a simple snare pattern stands out to me, reminds me of an old school hip hop track - it really caught my attention. "Top dog even though I didn't speak no english. Guess I got Grit coz I suffer for my s***, guess I came from the sticks and moved to the bricks"
5)Come Walk with Me is an astonishingly produced but again a fairly simple sound - from a lighthearted guitar sample with very humble and gentle lyricism on top of an anthematic clapped beat that leads unexpectedly into a very anti-four-to-the-floor beat (sounds great when the clashing cymbals get thrown in) which is maybe a little unorthodox for many people but I think both that and the track in general reveals where music can go and how 'outside the box' can work so well. There are artists like Lady Gaga who're provocative but they're provocative over the top of very safe production values and I love how with maya, there is no safety net.
Track 6 'aTENTion' was apparently co-written by Jullian Assange and it has some pretty rugged vocals, incorporating TENT into words throughout "The fullest exTENT of my inTENT is to let you know what is imporTENT" the TENTs get loosely placed in parts I think, making them a lot less effective. It has a wonderful Garage/2step section that I was pleasantly surprised by.
8)Exodus is pretty much a very close re-hash of Lonely Star by The Weeknd but it does work and Mayas voice holds up pretty well throughout. It's said that Maya offered the song to Madonna originally, rather unsuccessfully.
9)Bad Girls is the song that most people are probably going to know over any other song from the album (the Paper Planes of Matangi), the reminder that M.I.A can still create a massive pop song outside of her more experimental side. The song again is wonderfully produced and by Danja at that, packed with middle eastern/indian hooks and confident feminist provocative lyricism.
9)Boom Skit at 1m15s long is weirdly one of my favourite songs from the album, it's pretty much about racism aimed towards maya and the vast majority of hate that she receives despite having a fairly strong fanbase. "Brown girl, brown girl, turn your s*** down. You know America don't wanna hear your sound. Boom boom jungle music, go back to India"
10)Double Bubble Trouble.. This has been a focus of many reviewers due to it being a take on a popular one hit wonder 90s song and the fact it has a great dancehall/reggae infusion with Trap.
11)Y.A.L.A - A very catchy bubble gum dance/pop track and a defense against Drake's YOLO philosophy (many people assume she's saying YOLO and in a serious sense). You Always Live Again.
12)Bring the Noize is another loud, brash and in your face track with an unorthodox beat that would challenge anyone with a straight-edge view of either popular music or urban production. It's pretty much Maya doing her thing on top of a song that's already existed in the past, this time it's a track by the producer Surkin's old hip-hop group Marbel Players - Marbel Anthem (just modernized and more aggressive) where her wilder/egocentric comes into play. It seems Bring the Noize is the final party anthem before the albums slides into a mellow 'calm after the storm' state of the last 3 songs
13) Lights has no other instrumentation outside of the consistent, non-changing drum pattern where shakers are the prominent sound beneath Maya's charming and delicate vocals beginning with what I think is an attempt at an Indian accent. Quite a shiny one.
14)Know it Ain't Right isn't quite as mellow as Lights but it still maintains a chilled vibe sonically. "We know it ain't right but we do it anyway" helps the listener understand a little more about what she's trying to get across in the song.
15)Sexodus - Even thought there are small differences, I didn't really see the point in having both Exodus and Sexodus on the album when she could have included an additional new song and maybe released Sexodus as a remix but that could be something to do with Weeknd, who knows.
In my opinion, the great thing is that none of these songs feel like fillers - apart from Sexodus maybe. I'll definitely be getting the Vinyl copy as well.