It’s been a long time coming, but Matangi is finally here—and yes, it was worth the wait. After being pushed back by M.I.A.’s label, Interscope (which, for some reason, had no problem releasing ARTPOP), so many times, it seems almost a miracle to be able to listen to this fifteen-track gem.
Menacing, yet spiritual sounding “Karmageddon” is the perfect introduction M.I.A.’s to long-awaited Matangi. Much like “The Message” on M/\Y/\, “Karmageddon” is something of a thesis sentence for the entire album as M.I.A. warns, “My words are my armor and you’re bout to meet your karma.” The second track, “MATANGI,” is a screeching anthem calling to countries as far-reaching as Malawi. At times reminiscent of the beat to “Boyz,” M.I.A. shows her penchant for the visceral and fast-paced. As the song comes to a close, the bhangra-like background hypnotizes and enraptures. This segues into the equally surreal “Only 1 U.” Expressing a much sweeter sentiment than the previous track, M.I.A. gives us a mathematical breakdown about how
“There’s trillions of cash/And there’s billions of us/And there’s millions of things that can happen with this stuff/And there’s thousands that will crash/And there’s hundreds that will smash/There’s only one you and I’ma drink to that.”
The inherent message of the song, of course, is that “Making money is fun, but your life is one of a kind.” A.k.a. fucking cherish it.
“Warriors” is the closest M.I.A. will get to sounding like Die Antwoord. Opening with a tranquil “Ommmm,” you’re initially led to believe you’re about to listen to a peaceful little ditty, but this transitions instantaneously to M.I.A.’s usual tribal rhythm. And just when you get used to one style on this track, it will blind-side you with another one. The following, “Come Walk With Me,” starts out sounding like perhaps the cheesiest song M.I.A. has ever allowed herself to release (think Live Aid). But then, once again, the rap/hip hop/pop star takes you by storm with a frenetic, uptempo beat. M.I.A. sheds the brief bathetic image to say, “It’s cool/It takes two/So I’m gonna still fuck with you.” She then engages in her favorite pastime—self-reference—as she asserts, “M.I.A. comin’ back with power power.”
“atTENTion" continues the frenzied vibe with a caterwauling M.I.A. as she occasionally sings. Her typical, yet nonetheless charming haughtiness is apparent as she cautions, "Don’t try to copy this, cause I pay tent.” The subsequent “Exodus” is, it would seem, M.I.A.’s offering to the stoner set (which makes sense, considering the Weeknd is also featured on the track). Laidback and, at times, epic, M.I.A. questions, “Baby you can have it all/Tell me what for…Whatchu want it all for?” Things pick up with the song that originally signaled the advent of Matangi, “Bad Girls.” The rousing equivalent to M.I.A.’s other signature hit, “Paper Planes,” “Bad Girls” has possibly usurped the former as M.I.A’s most iconic song.
“Boom Skit,” the most playful and irreverent track on the album thus far finds M.I.A. poking fun at America (naturally) with lyrics like “Looking for your Instagram, looking for a pentagram, all I can say is poor people should be on Ghettogram.” “Boom Skit” transitions nicely to “Double Bubble Trouble”—easily one of the best/most danceable tracks on Matangi, and is likenable to a Bob Marley/Skrillex mash-up.”Y.A.L.A.”, M.I.A’s answer to Y.O.L.O., plays like a whirling dervish of beats and emotions (it’s indubitably what the Tasmanian devil listens to while traipsing around). Yet again, M.I.A. challenges us with a probing question: “If we only live once, why we keep doin’ the same shit?” “Bring the Noize,” one of the few other songs M.I.A. fans heard before Matangi’s release, most closely mirrors “Born Free” off M/\Y/\.
“Lights” (not to be confused with the Ellie Goulding song) is the type of offering that might have been played during the Jonestown Massacre—it has that kind of a creepy vibe. But still, M.I.A. manages to make it work with a rare glimpse into what her “sweet” voice sounds like. “Know It Ain’t Right” has tinges of an underground hip hop song with its booming bass and high as a kite-esque vocal pace. M.I.A. also continues with her exploration of moral implications as she states, “We know it ain’t right, but we do it anyway.” The closer for the album, cheekily titled “Sexodus,” finds M.I..A. pairing up with The Weeknd again—even though it’s essentially just “Exodus” tacked at the end. This one minor flaw aside, it’s quite reassuring to have a rabble-rouser like M.I.A. back on the scene to stir things up. It was going to be an awfully dull winter without her. Now let’s just hope she finds a different label to release her next record.