26. M.I.A. - Matangi
So, this is where it gets controversial. Contain you hatred, kids! Has it ever happened to any of you guys to really love a certain artist or genre without being fully able to pinpoint and express in words why? No? Well, anyway, that's the case with me and English/Sri Lankan singer and visual artist M.I.A.. I had a bit too much fun listening to her latest album not to put it on my list. The content of the album is also pretty difficult to put into a word: it is a mix of hip-hop, electronic/dance, different kinds of world music (including folkloric music from her country of origin, obviously), different subgenres of reggae, and psychedelia. Some songs ("Exodus", "Lights"...) sound like a modern version of the dream pop genre, perhaps with a bigger emphasis on the "pop" side than what the original definition meant. The beats are original and unconventional, often made with an impressive array of percussions and a few traditional melodic instruments. Even if M.I.A. is widely accepted in the mainstream, her music is a bit like her iconoclastic artwork, it's not that pretty and easy to appreciate: you have to give it time and dig deeper to get the real quality and meaning. Her songs are often noisy and and aggressive ("MATANGI", "Bring the Noize"). I guess this is partly why I got hooked when I heard "Born Free" from her previous album. Her vocals are also an acquired taste, I guess, but in my opinion, she has the most fun voice in the whole modern pop scene, because of its versatility. It ranges from reggae/dancehall relax stuff, to violent, fast, low rap, to her charming signature higher voice. The lyrics on Matangi
are also pretty appreciable; she comes up with impressive word play, but to get the real brilliance (just as for her artwork) you have to read between. For example, "Bad Girls" can be understood as an ordinary pop/rap song, a display of feminine attitude, but the song was actually a reaction to the female driving ban in Saudi Arabia. The lyrics cryptically speak of the horrific consequences that must face the women of developing countries, notably in the Middle-East, if they decide to live their life according to their own ideals. However, Matangi
is not as political as 2007's Kala
, because it revolves around a concept based on a Hindu deity with who M.I.A. shares her first name. I didn't really understand the concept so far, but so what? A fun album is a fun album.
This said, you'll probably hate it.
Bring the Noize