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Album review: M.I.A.’s ‘Matangi’ a roller coaster of sounds

ARMIAIn case we weren’t all already aware, M.I.A. has made it even more clear that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her or her bad girl self.

“Let you into Super Bowl, you tried to steal Madonna’s crown,” she raps in “Boom Skit” off her new album “Matangi,” a clear reference to the debacle at the 2012 Super Bowl, when she flipped off the camera. The entire song, which is the shortest on the album clocking in at just over a minute, is lyrically dense with quick rhymes that essentially says what a critical, outside party would say about the rapper – from telling her to go home, that no one wants to hear her music, to criticizing her Super Bowl performance.

The album art might be of just her face, but it should include her middle finger to the world.

While her anti-establishment, rebellious theme is cohesive throughout the album, the songs bounce around from smooth to dance rap to heavier, throbbing bass. The jumps between songs (and even within songs) might be because of the battle between M.I.A. and her label, who have been duking it out over release dates and the “edginess” of “Matangi.”

Tweaked and changed for months since she released the single “Bad Girls” in January 2012, the album has likely had several different faces, with rewrites pasted over more rewrites.

For more than a year after the release of “Bad Girls,” fans sat in waiting for the album that seemed to never come.

“Bad Girls” was arguably the rapper’s strongest singles since “Paper Planes,” and the wait either served to raise expectations, or make people forget an album was supposed to be coming out at all.

With a soft boom, and muffled vocals, that rise into full volume, “Matangi” matches “Bad Girls.” The indistinguishable hook with no clear words might not be quite as easy to sing along with as “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well,” but the infectious beat behind the song is more than enough. “Bring the Noize” is also a contender for the strongest off the album, while not as playful as “Paper Planes,” its pulsing, tapping beat will be a dance floor staple.

“Warriors” opens with chimes, moves into layered vocals, to “oohms,” and then into a drum beat tapping rapidly in the bag. It is a prime example of the changing sounds M.I.A. employs throughout a single song, but is more successful than some of the earlier tracks, weaving the otherwise contradicting songs into a head swaying song.

Slowing down for “Come Walk With Me,” the first part of the song is smooth and almost tranquil (especially for the rapper) — until it’s not. She exchanges the smooth opening for a quick tempo dance beat that transitions suddenly.

Blending dancehall rhythm with some Indian-sounding music and M.I.A.’s rapping that pulses and pushes forward, “Matangi” was worth the wait, but the album pulled listeners through a roller coaster of different sounds.

Grade: B+

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