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NTW - M.I.A.

6/17/2014

M.I.A., 'Matangi'
Our rating: 

Names are important to Maya Arulpragasam. She named her first two albums after her father and mother, "/\/\/\Y/\" after herself, and "Matangi" after an emerald-green Tantric goddess as well as a riff on her birth name, Mathangi. Picking up where "/\/\/\Y/\'s" challenging electronics and distrust of the information age left off, M.I.A.'s fourth album is top-loaded with some of its most aggressive tracks, including the title track's global litany. She makes listeners wait for her still-formidable skills with hooks and melodies, displaying them most stunningly on "Bad Girls," a sinewy, menacing track whose origins date back to 2007 sessions with Danja. Throughout the album, Arulpragasam proves she's as adept as ever at blending different sounds and cultures into a mix that is unmistakably hers, alluding to Shampoo's bratty Brit-pop single "Trouble" at one moment and proclaiming herself the female Slick Rick at another. Indeed, the songs inspired by rap and R&B are among the highlights, such as her karmic questioning of Drake's ubiquitous motto on "Y.A.L.A." or the sultry, surprisingly straightforward ballad "Know It Ain't Right." "Exodus," a collaboration with the Weeknd, finds a mostly successful middle ground between her outbursts and his chilly R&B dirges. Other standouts include the fizzy, hypnotic "Lights" and "Boom Skit," which harks back to Arular's brazen exuberance. -- Heather Phares, All Music Guide

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