Tag Archives: M.I.A.

Swords

((Sorry for my two week absence! I had a really bad pain in my neck (literally) and then I came down with an awful cold. I’m taking it easy for now, so this will be a quick post.))

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Well, it looks like M.I.A. is back in the swing of things! I’ve been seeing these random teaser videos on her Facebook page, and a few weeks ago an actual song finally dropped. It looks like audio visual albums are the big thing now, as that’s what this next project, Matahdatah, is shaping up to be.

Right now, it looks like you can only watch the video on Apple Connect, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up. You can also just buy the thing on iTunes if you want. I just bought the single but the video is very cool and you should definitely go watch it. It also features a video she recorded for her song “Warriors” from her previous album Matangi.

The video for “Swords” is amazing. Not quite as jaw-dropping as “Bad Girls” but I’m still pretty flabbergasted at how deftly these young Indian girls handle swords (and staffs) that are nearly as big as they are – like they’re simply a third limb. Where did Maya find these girls???

There’s not a lot of information out there (the album only has an unlinked mention on the discography section of M.I.A.’s Wikipedia page – not even on the discography section itself), but this Stereogum article gives us enough for now. I’ve been through this audiovisual concept album thing before with other artists (iamamiwhoami in particular) so I’m looking forward to see what she does with it. Maya’s always enjoyed turning her camera on other people from around the world, specifically people we don’t see a lot in the mainstream (i.e. “world’s sexiest” A-list celebrities from developed Western countries). I’m pretty excited to see what other countries and people will feature in these future “scrolls,” as I’m guessing they will be called.

The song itself is pretty great too. I like that she recorded the sword strikes to use as a beat. If this is an indicator of the theme, then this album may turn out to be pretty upbeat, which is the mood she wanted Matangi but her record label didn’t like that. I’d like to hear an upbeat, empowering album from M.I.A. For now, we just have to wait and see what comes next!

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Matangi

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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Bad Girls

I meant to do a review of M.I.A.’s brand new album Matangi which is out today and has been streaming for free online since (and much to my surprise I discovered on) Saturday. Unfortunately, I had a busy weekend and have only listened to it about one and a half times. But at the time of this publishing, I’ll have purchased the album and no doubt have listened to it all morning before/on the way to work. And anyway, I’m really going to need another whole week to listen to it because I love what I’ve heard so far but I also need some time to chew on it. As I’ve mentioned before, M.I.A. is one of my favorite artists and I’d prefer not to rush a review of this album I’ve been waiting for since last year.

So enough of my excuses – on to “Bad Girls!” The original (and shorter) version of this song made its debut on M.I.A.’s Vicki Leekx mixtape back in December 2010. It was easily the stand out track, but an official single version didn’t come out until January 2012. A full length album was supposed to follow, but wasn’t actually confirmed until late this past summer. The reason why is actually kind of a funny story, but I’ll save it for next time, since it has to do with the album itself.

So what about “Bad Girls?” Let’s take a look at the video/listen to the track.

Well, it might just be one of the most AMAZING videos that has ever existed, first of all. I mean, those car stunts just BLEW MY MIND the first time I saw them. Physics!!! What?!? Even M.I.A. herself couldn’t believe what they were doing, much less think she would survive it fully intact.

It’s M.I.A.’s interpretation of a rap video, while also standing in solidarity with the Women to Drive movement. It’s just so incredibly badass on so many levels.

I also love that so much of the lyrics are a double entendre. “My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the dashboard/My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the radio” and “Hands up, hands tied/Don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang” stand out immediately, and those are just a few. She even drops a Grace Jones reference at one point. There’s just so much going on in the song and yet it flows so well. She’s got such control, such finesse.

“Bad Girls” is probably M.I.A.’s greatest hit since “Paper Planes” in the way that she’s made a song that’s so smart and political and accessible and appealing all at the same time. It’s so cleverly punk in that very special M.I.A. way.

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Y.A.L.A.

M.I.A.’s fourth single from her upcoming fourth studio album Matangi came out last week and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it all weekend. Admittedly when I first heard it (just a snippet at the time), I thought “Yeah, it’s pretty good!” and not much else. Then it came back to haunt me a few days later and I had to find it again. It’s sneaky like that.

“Y.A.L.A.” – an acronym for “You Always Live Again” – is Maya’s response to Drake’s “The Motto,” which popularized that social media buzzword Y.O.L.O. That trite, hackneyed phrase wore out its welcome a long time ago, which is why I love everything about “Y.A.L.A.” Not only does it contradict the meaning of Y.O.L.O., but it also feminizes the phrase in a way. It made me think of that interview she gave to Pitchfork years ago when she called out sexism in the music industry and in music journalism. I feel like “Y.A.L.A.” is also partly a callback to that.

The vocals are a little shouty (I won’t be the first to admit it when I say that M.I.A. isn’t the world’s greatest singer – but she’s not terrible) but also enthusiastic. Besides, after giving a listen to Drake, I can’t say the same for “The Motto.” The beats in “Y.A.L.A.” are fantastically heavy and hypnotic, making this one a club hit for sure.

The primary theme of the song, as implied in the title, is the Hindu concept of reincarnation. M.I.A. invokes this theme in the hook, singing “Up and down that pole/Like you’re goin’ up a yo-yo.” Besides the yo-yo spinning around and around and up and down, I imagine a horse on a merry-go-round pole, also going up and down and around and around. It gives the illusion that you’re going somewhere, but you’re not – you’re literally just going in circles.

M.I.A. makes it clear that she’s sick and tired of people committing the same stupid and senseless acts that we’ve been committing for the entirety of human history. Murder, genocide, war, persecution of groups by other groups. “If you only live once, why we keep doing the same shit?” she asks at the song’s outro. No excuses, she wants an answer. “Back home where I come from, we keep being born again and again and then again and again./That’s why they invented karma.” So that we won’t keep making the same mistakes again and again, so that we can better ourselves and our world. But that’s not what we’ve been doing with our lives, is it?

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Come Walk With Me

M.I.A. is easily one of my top five favorite artists, so I’m pretty happy making my first post about her latest single.

I guess she teased the track back in April and I missed it up until a month ago. I loved it when I first heard it, but then she released another teaser last week and I wasn’t so sure. I mean, I liked it, but it was a lot slower. Still, she’s one of my favorites, so I did my best not to jump to conclusions. I had a feeling, based on how the clip faded out, that it was going to transform into that song I’d heard a month before.

Well, the single came out today and I was right! It’s actually pretty brilliant. It starts off with this really lazy melody — Picture yourself sipping piña coladas while lounging in a hammock strung up between two palm trees on some tropical beach you’ve seen in a stock photo. Just like that.

It’s almost as cheesy as it sounds. And then the transition socks you upside the head. From there the song just becomes this series of explosions that just doesn’t stop, like someone set off fireworks beneath that hammock you were so comfortable in until a few seconds ago. It turns into a wild beach party, and you’re in the middle of it, whether you want to be there or not.

OK, that sounds kind of cheesy too, but that’s just the crazy image I conjured up in my head. It definitely makes me want to dance like crazy. In short, yes, I am crazy for this song.

I can’t say it’s too radio-accessible (though I haven’t listened to the radio in years, and as far as I know, “Paper Planes” was her last single to get a lot of radio play). People will definitely have a lot of mixed feelings about it, including, I think, M.I.A. fans. Sound-wise, it’s not like anything she’s done before, except maybe for some elements of Vicki Leekx. And now that I think of it, the opening and overall melody reminds me a bit of “It Takes A Muscle” from Maya. But still, the song is very much its own beast.

Between “Come Walk With Me” and her previous single, “Bring the Noize,” Matangi is shaping up to be very noisy, messy, and aggressive — In other words, it’s M.I.A. being true to form. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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