M.I.A. integrates Sri-Lankan roots on new album

By Brien Miceli ’17

English rap artist M.I.A. dropped her fourth studio album called Matangi this past week, and she stayed true to her style, while bringing out more of her Sri-Lankan roots. As always, M.I.A. remains incredibly progressive in her latest album, sticking to her distinct electronic/glitch/hip-hop/dance style. She has described her music as “anti-popstar” club music, and she certainly carries this label in Matangi.

Her album has several stylistic changes throughout. Her song titles, such as the intro “Karmageddon,” and the second song on the album “MATANGI,” and lyrics inspire a distinct Sri-Lankan theme. She uses samples of Indian and Sri-Lankan instruments, particularly in the first four songs. Song five entitled “Come Walk With Me” through song eight entitled “Bad Girls” does away with the South Asian style and brings in more of a sound she had in her earlier album, Kala. She raps less and sings more, and the music is marginally mellower. The songs “Exodus” and “Sexodus” feature the Weeknd, another rising R&B artist as background vocals. The song “Bad Girls” immediately brings the powerful beat back, and M.I.A. resurges with her grungy rap style for the rest of the album.

There is no singular style for the second half of the album. For example, the songs “Double Bubble Trouble” and “Y.A.L.A.” have a very intense, moombahton-sounding rhythm almost akin to that of Major Lazer making use of bass and 808s, while the official single “Bring the Noize” has a more distorted glitchy-banger sound. In addition, as a whole this album uses more explicit language than her past songs, with all but two of the fifteen songs being labeled “explicit.”

M.I.A. has always been a feminist, a rebel, and fiercely independent, and she continues to stay true to her image in this album by not allowing Mercury Records to alter her style. She even threatened to leak her own album months in advance due to all the production delays. Though it took a few listens to get used to, I have a great respect for M.I.A. and her music. Her experimental style and progressivism is refreshing in today’s world of copy-paste pop one-hit-wonders.

First-year Brien Miceli is a contributing writer. His email is bmiceli@fandm.edu.