English- Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. bas released her fourth studio album Matangi, two years after the first single was released. Reportedly her record label rejected the first draft last year for sounding “too happy”, a problem that has seemingly been resolved after listening to the album, which now sounds tough and cold; packed full of M.I.A.’s taciturn attitude. She was inspired by her namesake, the Hindi goddess Matangi when writing the album, which explains the eastern references scattered throughout (such as karma and reincarnation).
The first song, Karmageddon, features Hindu chanting at the beginning which then blends into a beat, mixing the eastern and western styles together. The lyrics also represent this, with M.I.A. rapping, “Ain’t Dalai Lama/Ain’t Sai Baba/My words are my armour and you’re about to meet your karma”. The track is only a minute and a half long, and merges seamlessly into the next track, “Matangi”. The instruments in this song are very eastern-sounding, with Indian drums and a sitar playing in the background. This contrasts with the lyrics, which start off Sri-Lankan but go into “I sing like a whore/Do you want more?” M.I.A.’s provocative assertiveness is very different to the blushing women we are used to seeing characterised in Bollywood films, which is what makes her so interesting and unique.
“Exodus”, the seventh track, is a collaboration with alternative R&B artist The Weeknd and is the most diverse song on the album. It is more chilled out than the others and is also the most ‘club-like” song, sampling The Weeknd’s “Lonely Star”. There is also a sequel “Sexodus” which is the last track and is a faster version, also featuring heavier beats and a saxophone. The lead single “Bad Girls” came out early in 2012 and was one of M.I.A.’s most successful singles. It again has Middle Eastern influences with its worldbeat drums and Indian-sounding synths. The song is about female empowerment, with the chorus repeating “Live fast, die young/Bad girls do it well”.
The entire album is very well constructed and is typical of M.I.A.’s aloofness and ‘gangster’ attitude. The eastern influence accentuates her style and works well with the lyrics. I feel this is possibly M.I.A.’s best album to date.
- Helen Monaghan
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