M.I.A. transcends genres and cultural barriers

Contact Zac Younkins at zyounkin@kent.edu.  

Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected].  

Zac Younkins

M.I.A. hit the No. 4 spot on the billboard charts in 2008 with “Paper Planes.” That album, “Kala,” was both critically praised and certified Gold. Her 2010 follow-up, “Maya,” left a lot to be desired, and performed much more poorly in sales and ratings. It also largely strayed away from the unique world music feel of her previous releases.

“Matangi,” however, surpasses M.I.A.’s previous work and holds the potential to become a classic. The mixture of Eastern and Western musical styles and Middle Eastern influence over hip-hop and electronica-based beats really embodies M.I.A.’s style and takes it to the next level. For an electronic, hip-hop, pop album, it takes bounds into the realm of experimentalism. 

I tend to enjoy albums that are very visceral and atmospheric, and “Matangi” fits that bill. Though the album contains several single-worthy cuts, such as “Y.A.L.A.”, “Bad Girls” and “Exodus,” it is best enjoyed when played through in its entirety. 

Songs like “Y.A.L.A.,” which stands for “You always live again” to rebel against the popular saying “YOLO,” and “Sexodus”/”Exodus,” featuring the Weeknd, contain a nice medley of catchy, radio-worthy songwriting and highlight Maya’s philosophical message. (On a side note, the Weeknd also had a stellar 2013 LP release, which you should check out if you haven’t.) The track “Warriors,” produced by the aptly named Hit-Boy, transitions from a strange high-energy rap track to a meditation “trance.”

While M.I.A. usually features an overtly political message, this time the album avoids that trend and takes us on a sort of crash course in Hinduism, expressing themes of karma, reincarnation, nirvana and meditation. 

Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected].