M.I.A. is back in action

The forward-thinking pop icon finally releases her fourth LP, and it's an uncompromising melting pot of pan-global sounds, considerable substance and incomparable cool

MIA/MATANGI

'Brown girl, brown girl/Turn your s**t down/You know America don't wanna hear your sound," raps MIA on Boom Skit, the 75-second rant where she basically blazes through a list of controversial issues from racism and Instagram to KONY 2012 and her antics at the Super Bowl with Madonna and Nicki Minaj. For a brief moment there, it became clear that even now, the London-via-Sri Lanka singer-songwriter still thrives when stirring things up and not giving a damn.

Inspired by the Hindu goddess of the same name and dubbed a spiritual outing, MIA's fourth studio album, Matangi, is sonically not dissimilar to her 2010 mixtape, Vicki Leekx, on which the hook-filled, Middle Eastern-inflected club anthem Bad Girls first appeared. The content, though, does go a little deeper than merely being badass.

Take, for example, the telling, interlude-like opener Karmageddon. This sets things up nicely with the line: "It's an open ceremony and we all start the same," before concluding with: "Ain't Dalai Lama/Ain't Sai Baba/My words are my armour and you're 'bout to meet your kharma."

More kharma-speak awaits on YALA, one of the album's highlights that flips Drake's Yolo philosophy on its head while referencing reincarnation: "Back home, where I come from/We keep being born again and again/That's why they invented kharma." (She further disses him on the title track with the line: "We started from the bottom/But Drake gets all the credit.")

And, of course, it's not an MIA record without getting slyly social and political. On the eclectic-sounding Bring the Noize, she mentions "ex-convicts are diplomats" which is directed at Sri Lankan Gen Shavendra Silva and his war-crime allegations while on aTENTion she raps about economic inequality: "While you dancing in yo' Louboutins, we be making tents out ya curtains."

The outstanding track, however, has to be the ear-pleasingly breezy Come Walk With Me where she coos: "You ain't gotta throw your hands up in the air/'Cause tonight we ain't acting like we don't care."

Much like MIA herself, Matangi brilliantly represents myriad influences and a touch of spirituality. There's never a dull moment here as the album comes laden with pretty much everything fun and eccentric _ from dancehall, electro, hip hop and pop to Bollywood samples, Eastern beats and OM mantras.

It's inventive, intelligent and pleasantly unpredictable. What's more admirable is that her fierce political and social commentaries remain 100% intact. With Matangi, MIA proves that she is still as cool and confident as we remember her to be, if not even more so.

THE PLAYLIST

Mindset (featuring Freddy V Southside and Preawa Yellow Fang)/ Don't Say

Local hip hop label Thaitanium Entertainment has been consistently cranking out a series of mixtapes and compilations for over a decade. Their latest compilation, Still Here, will introduce the label's up-and-coming acts including 2P and Mindset as well as collaborators such as Nop Ponchamni and Yellow Fang's drummer Preawa. Featuring Southside's Freddy V, Don't Say is a cutesy hip hop song in the same vein as Joey Boy's '90s hit Loy Talay. Besides, Preawa's vocals lend themselves really well to this kind of fun, lighthearted number.

Keane/ Higher Than the Sun

Ahead of the release of their best-of compilation later this month, the British outfit share with us a new song called Higher Than the Sun, and it's classic Keane. The song itself features a typically uplifting message with frontman Tom Chaplin crooning, "We're higher than the sun/And nothing's gonna change the way I'm feeling now/May you go on and on It's never gonna fade the way I'm feeling." Fans will have no trouble connecting to this one. The Best of Keane will include 18 best-loved hits from the band's four albums including Everybody's Changing, Somewhere Only We Know and Is it any Wonder?

Britney Spears/ Perfume

After the ferocious romp that is Work Bitch, Britney Spears takes things down a few notches on her new cut, Perfume, a ballad co-penned by singer/songwriter du jour, Sia. Lifted from her forthcoming eighth studio album, Britney Jean, the song evokes Britney's more emotional offerings such as Born To Make You Happy and Everytime. "Sometimes it feels like there's three of us in here, baby," she sings about her insecurities of not measuring up to her man's ex-lover. Not usually one to expose her emotional side, Spears proudly wears her heart on her sleeve on Perfume, and the vulnerability here is stunning to witness.

Fatboy Slim (featuring Riva Starr and Beardy Man)/ Eat Sleep Rave Repeat (Calvin Harris Remix)

Trust Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, to turn a random dude's rant into a full-fledged banger. Eat Sleep Rave Repeat brilliantly sums up the nature of rave culture in general with the lines: "I don't remember f***ing anything man/I mean I have vague recollections/And like a general feeling of happiness." The rest of the song features more ramblings from the said random dude and Starr's repetitions of the track's title. Kudos to Calvin Harris who steps out of his comfort zone and delivers something totally refreshing and unpredictable.

Eminem (featuring Rihanna)/ The Monster

The pair reunite on their latest collaboration, The Monster, an upbeat single that's markedly different from their 2010 smash, Love the Way You Lie. Clearly tailored for Top 40 radio, the pop-oriented jam finds the twosome talking about embracing the demons inside them. "I am nuts for real/But I'm okay with that," Em raps while the Barbadian diva shares the similar sentiment during an infectious chorus: "I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head."

About the author

columnist
Writer: Chanun Poomsawai
Position: Reporter