Sound — 8
M.I.A., aka Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, is a Sri Lankan artist, though she spent much of her childhood living as a refugee in England. She is most known for her songs "Paper Planes," "Born Free" and "Boyz." While she has had numerous inspirations throughout her career, Matangi takes those influences a few steps further into the amalgamation of sound that is this album. The album was recorded in numerous locations all over the world. There are 15 tracks on the album and it clocks in at approximately 57 minutes. The singles released from the album were "Bad Girls," "Bring the Noize," "Come Walk With Me," and "Y.A.L.A." Canadian modern R&B singer, The Weeknd, guests on two tracks on the album - "Exodus" and "Sexodus." To give a brief idea of the sound of the album, it sounds like Death Grips and Die Antwoord with a strong dash of world music. The album opens with the track "Karmageddon," which includes a brief sitar part and some other Indian stringed instrument. The track then contains mostly some chanting/wailing in the background while M.I.A. sing-raps with some interesting vocal effects and healthy dollops of reverb. The next track is the title track "Matangi" which opens up with some chanting and tribal percussion, some random screams and it all builds until it is a dense wall of music that M.I.A. raps over. "Only 1 U" has a bell ringing repeated in the intro, and the vocals come in with some glitch type effects and some "aaah"s in the background and then the track goes on to build up, keeping glitch effects throughout the track and strong bass and percussion lines throughout the track. "Warriors" opens with a harp and sitar but quickly moves on to a synth percussion line and some synth generated "aaahs" and M.I.A. rapping at a good clip, the track goes on to switch gears on me several times – the track really plays on the border of noise and music, but in a good way. "Come Walk With Me" is probably one of the most "accessible" songs on the album, and while it is a good track, it is probably my least favorite track - I didn't listen to this album for "accessible." The next track, "aTENTion," really caught my attention - the entire song has a single audio sample of the world "tent" that is placed over other words containing that syllable with a full soundscape going on in the background with drums, glitch noises, screaming and chanting. "Exodus" is another of the more accessible songs on the album, and The Weeknd guests on this track as well. "Bad Girls" has the line "live fast, die young/ bad girls do it well" repeating as the main hook throughout the track, with some kind of Indian flute going on in the background. "Boom Skit" is a very short track at just over a minute and has some of the most straight forward rap on the entire album, with a fairly traditional beat. "Double Bubble Trouble" oddly enough has a strong reggae feeling to it mixed with electro music (almost dubstep), which is an oddly entrancing mix. "Y.A.L.A." is definitely one of the better tracks as it is to EDM what noise-pop is to pop music. "Bring the Noize" is another of the stronger tracks on the album, and it has a lot going on - I guess she really was bringing the noise on this track. "Lights" starts out with a vocal audio loop and a deep bass line, but is soon followed by a sing-songy vocal line and percussion, which actually stays relatively the same throughout the rest of the track except for some weirdness near the end. "Know It Ain't Right" is another track that stays on a relatively straight line. The album closes out with the track "Sexodus," which also features The Weeknd. This track is very similar to the track "Exodus" from earlier on the album that The Weeknd were also featured on. Overall, I was impressed with the overall sound and vision of this album.
Lyrics — 8
First off, I have to give props to M.I.A.'s insistence to avoid studio tricks to "fix" her voice. Though she does use a lot of audio processing on her vocals, they are used strictly for effect and not to auto-tune or correct pitch. That is something that is becoming rare these days. Most of her vocals are a little subversive, disguised as your normal pop music lyrics but containing human rights and other international cause messages. As a sample of the lyrics, here is part of a verse from the track "Bring the Noize": "I'm so tangy, people call me Mathangi/ Goddess of word, b-tches Imma keep it bangin'/ Truth is like a rotten tooth, you gotta spit it out/ let the bottom two, let my wisdom work it out/ big on the underground, can't knock me down/ Vicki Leekx, b-tches, back by dope demand/ I sleep on my talent and I stand by it too/ I can say lots with a little words or few like/ like Adam had 'em, yeh, he, the madame/ Yeah I'll introduce you to the dooms do dooms/ come let we go, do you like my perfume/ made it home with some gasoline and shrooms."
Overall Impression — 8
I personally thought this album was great. There are definitely "noise" elements in the sound, and if you don't enjoy that type of thing then this probably isn't the album for you. My favorite tracks on the album are probably "Warriors," "Bring the Noize," "Lights" and "Matangi." It is artists like M.I.A. that make me feel more hopeful on the future of music and especially makes me confident that all music won't become overly homogenized to a lot of the bland pop music that seems to be on all the radio stations these days.