M.I.A.’s forth release, Matangi, is all over the map. In the first verse of the title track, she literally name-drops countries around the world (from Somalia Bosnia to China Canada). Even the productions are all over the place ranging from Bollywood synthesizing to percussion clattering to bass blasting to Indian chanting to Arabic clubbing. As chaotic as the beats are, they make the album so damn hypnotic to experience.
If you can ignore the lyrics, you can just groove to every track, but that wouldn’t be an M.I.A.’s record. What makes M.I.A. brilliant is that she not only could get your feet stomping, but she could also get your ear to pay “aTENTion.” As an artist, M.I.A is not easy to pin down. In one track, she’s a bad girl who lives fast and dies young. In another, she’s a lady of rage with an afro puff who is “more Jiggy than Will.” Elsewhere she’s a Mathangi who is a “Goddess of word” and who sings “like a whore.”
Sure, Matangi is a hot mess. It’s incoherent, contradicting and frustrating, and yet it is also so compelling, fascinating and engaging at the same time. And that’s what make M.I.A. unique.