Remember the first time you ever heard M.I.A.? "Who is this tiny badass from London?" you likely gasped in awe. Her music was catchy but unabashedly politicized, and it borrowed from hip-hop and global sounds simultaneously. This shit was brilliant. And while she remains best known for 2008's "Paper Planes" (a bonafide modern classic) and performing at the VMAs while nine months pregnant, she's continued to challenge her audience and push boundaries ever since.
Now, there's a whole bunch of you who probably gave up at the point when third album, MAYA was released. Greeted with mixed reviews and mixed emotions, we're pretty sure she lost the ginger portion of her audience directly after the deeply disturbing video for "Born Free." But MAYA -- though a departure -- remained ambitious, fearless, and above all, interesting.
All this means that we were rather excited about her upcoming fourth album, Matangi, and the prospect of seeing M.I.A. stretch herself to even stranger heights -- especially since her label Interscope has been delaying the release of this record for almost a year, and has repeatedly asked M.I.A. to make changes to the final product.
We had assumed that this was because the music was either extremely challenging or terribly controversial, even though the first two singles from the album were neither. First single, "Bad Girls" was M.I.A. on top, old-school form, and second, "Bring The Noize," had a dark vibe but was the perfect next-step up from Maya. Considering that, Interscope's refusal to release the album has been perplexing.
Sadly, with the release of third single, "Come Walk With Me," we think we might finally have an idea what the real problem is. This single is an unfinished, un-finessed hodgepodge of a thing that sounds like 2010's "XXXO" if that song had contained no feeling whatsoever, was spliced with two completely unrelated tracks, and then remixed by a 14-year-old amateur who had to stop halfway through to do his homework.
Behold the clusterfuck:
Is it a girl group recording a song to soundtrack a video game from the 1990s? Is it self-consciously clubbed-up bhangra? Or are we just stuck in a malfunctioning M.R.I. machine? Frankly, it feels like all of the above.
There is a point sometimes where experimentation pushes the listener to such a degree that it can fall off the too-much cliff and land flat on its own face. But that's not what "Come Walk With Me" sounds like. "Come Walk With Me" sounds like getting bored in the studio, wanting to go home, and chucking some stuff together in the hopes that it will merely sound like bold experimentation.
With the high quality of the first two singles, we'd be foolish to write off Matangi in its entirety based on this song alone. We are, however, a little concerned that maybe Interscope kept asking M.I.A. to re-do songs before the album's release because they also felt as unfinished and unstructured as "Come Walk With Me".
Matangi now has a release date of Nov. 5. We can only hope that the rest of this long-awaited album isn't as incomprehensible and profoundly irritating as "Come Walk With Me."