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M.I.A. breaks the silence with five-star album 'Matangi'

5/5 Pitchforks


English-Sri Lankan artist M.I.A. returned with a vengeance when she leaked her long-awaited fourth album, "Matangi," five days before its official release on Nov. 5. "Matangi" balances eclectic, hazy and intelligent pop music with the artist's “(BANG BANG BANG BANG!) / And (KKKAAAA CHING!)” attitude we know and love.

"Matangi" arrives nearly a year late, long after rumors of a dispute between the artist and her record company began circulating. In August, the artist actually threatened to leak the album herself if Interscope postponed the release date any longer.

"Matangi" sounds like the iconic "Bad Girls" music video, a massive finger-flip to restrictive laws in Saudi Arabia that prevent women wearing the niqab from driving cars. It sounds like the artist's "Kala" reminder that AK47's cost $20 a piece in Africa (referenced in "20 Dollar"). "Matangi" sounds like the sort of 15-song soundtrack you’d play right before you walk onstage at the Super Bowl's halftime show, but you lean forward and flip the bird to cameras and a stadium of shocked spectators.

Here's a go-to song list for a few "Matangi" tracks that deserve a listen.

Track No. 2. “MATANGI”: Throwing back to M.I.A.’s “Boyz,” this track remasters and adds depth to an originally repetitive song. M.I.A. swipes down haters (“You’re school of fakeness / I’m school of hard knocks”) and Drake (“Started at the bottom but Drake gets all the credit”) in one swift kick to the groin.


Track No. 4. “Warriors”: M.I.A. finally ditches the glitches and technical pops popularized in "/\/\ /\ Y /\" for a ground-shaking, catchy trance song. But don’t worry, the artist didn’t sacrifice any tribal or old-school Indian beats to produce arguably the best song on "Matangi."



Track No. 6. “Attention”: This song may not be the most developed, nestled between several solid ballads and the album's stunning reprise. The broken and metallic chorus of "Attention" sounds eerily similar to “/\/\ /\ Y /\."


Track No. 10. “Double Bubble Trouble”: The intensity of “Matangi” skyrockets upward thanks to “Double Bubble Trouble,” which takes a hint from 2010-era reggae dubstep. She’s putting a lot on her plate here, but she pulls it off with ease.

Track No. 11. “Y.A.L.A.”: This song leaked about a week before the album’s release date, a throwback to “World Town” and slap to "YOLO" in one step. (“YOLO? I don’t even know anymore / What that even mean though / If you only live once why we keep doing the same sh-t?")


Track No. 12. “Bring the Noize”: Admittedly, there’s a lot going on here. The music is just as absurd as the music video, but at least by now we know M.I.A. likes driving fast cars and rapping hypnotic, declarative lines about worldwide atrocities. But mainly the Sri Lankan ones.


Track No. 14. “Know It Ain’t Right”: After making it through 13 M.I.A.-owned tracks, it’s nice to find a song that reminds us the artist's music may be slowly evolving from jarring, glitch-filled and intense tracks to a multi-faceted, but mellow, masterpiece. “KnowIt Ain’t Right” could safely be the only song we did not expect to hear after M.I.A.'s silence.


Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @aovnicek

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