Almost two years ago M.I.A released a single called Bad Girls – a female empowered chunk of catchiness surrounded by a hypnotic hook and Middle Eastern tinged influences. Playing on syncopated drums and worldbeat, the track not only delved into the realms of music M.I.A is so profound at making but also re-instated her as an artist who could pick herself up and dust off the debris.
Lyrically, Bad Girls chimed like modern pop confectionary normally seen breezing around the charts; it talks of chains hitting chests and some other stuff that doesn’t make much sense unless M.I.A is using her thorny wordplay and slinking it around some Bollywood beat. If anything Bad Girls showed that if M.I.A really wanted to make a classic hit in line with Paper Planes, she bloody well could.
Fast-forward to the alpha-birth of November 2013 and Matangi is now released with an aura of prescience and sceptism around it. Finding musical solace in her very own roots, M.I.A practically name drops Hindu goddess Matangi in the album title before capitalizing on Hindu themes include Karma and re-incarnation, in particular with Y.A.L.A her stab at everyone’s favourite catchphrase YOLO. (I’m kidding, unless you really are a twat).
It’s the support off house producers Surkin and Switch however that detail the infusion of club-orientated beats into M.I.A’s spitfire raps, making tracks including Bring The Noize and Come Walk With Me all the more club-friendly. Bring The Noize is a chaotic thunderstorm of synthesized stammers and shifting dynamics whilst Come Walk With Me almost seems disjointed in its form – starting with a twee intro that’s only masked by M.I.A’s nasal drone before mutating into a confused breakdown of tightened, fast paced drum beats alongside the noise of a Mac sound button being increased – edgy. Too much bro-step bursts of bass, synths and general noise are convoluted into Matangi with the mind pondering just how much time the producers had on their hands. I’m not gonna lie, it reaches headache breaking point at times.
It’s laughable to even consider that the album was pushed back due to it being too “positive”. What else can M.I.A gripe about apart from that middle finger scenario at the Superbowl that we were all so shocked about we managed to forget it even happened or moreover care? She filters it in somehow though on Boom Skit with “we let you into Superbowl, you tried to steal Madonna’s crown” amongst other self-deprecating lines including “go back to India”.
There’s strength and dexterity to Matangi with M.I.A’s colourfully garish trademark stamped all over it. Her inner rummage into her history and back catalogue have built a frame of tracks that sustain the cynically fun humour M.I.A plays so well with. Dubble Bubble Trouble is a particular highlight, referencing Shampoo’s Trouble over the slinkiest reggae earworm to play this side of 2013. Forever managing to sound like a snarky teenager whilst actually pushing the 40-year-old barrier, M.I.A still manages to make Matangi a forward sounding, fresh album which is exactly what we expected of her, positive or not.