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So last week I promised to tell the story of Matangi‘s much delayed release. It really is a funny story, or at least it is to me, being an M.I.A. fan. Originally slated for a December 2012 releaseMatangi was pushed back to April 2013 because, according to her label, Interscope, it was “too positive.” It seems they still weren’t satisfied because in August, M.I.A. threatened to leak the album herself if they didn’t make up their minds (I wouldn’t have put it past her). Interscope responded by announcing a release date of November 5.

And so here we are. In the 3 years since her last album, M.I.A. has:

  • nearly married a billionaire
  • flipped off millions of viewers during the halftime show of the 2012 Super Bowl
  • been subsequently sued by the NFL
  • separated from aforementioned billionaire fiancé
  • gotten locked into a custody battle over their son

I have to wonder how “positive” her album sounded when she was going through all this, because for the most part the end result is pretty dark, as her label requested.

According to M.I.A. (full name Mathangi Arulpragasam), the album was inspired by the Hindu goddess for which she was named, Matangi. It’s no wonder then that the album feels so personal.  This is most obvious on the mid-album intermission “Boom Skit” and on the following track “Double Bubble Trouble.” I have to wonder about the melancholy “Know It Ain’t Right” too.

Never one to pass up a chance to get worldly or political, M.I.A. does so on the tracks “Matangi” (wherein she chants a long list of mostly developing countries) and “aTENTion” (which was supposedly written with a little help from Julian Assange). She even gets reflective about the place and potential of the individual human being in a world filled with trillions of cash, billions of fellow humans, and millions of possibilities in “Only 1 U,” one of my favorite tracks.

Sound-wise, there are definitely some fantastic songs. “Y.A.L.A.” is an amazing club track and “Bring the Noize,” while it may not have a discernible melody, will dare you to keep up with its beats.

M.I.A. made the right move in choosing to name the album after the goddess with whom she shares her name. Matangi feels the most like her at this point in her life – it’s the perfect balance of introspective and outspoken. Will it achieve the success of her best-selling album to date, Kala? Maybe not, but like the goddess, Matangi, it doesn’t desire to aspire to the greatness of others. It is in a league of its own. M.I.A. had something to say and she said it. Love it or hate it, this is her. And if you do hate it, I’m sure she has a finger to show you.


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