Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Track Review: M.I.A. - Y.A.L.A


Yet again, the playmaker sets up her fourth album, Matangi. You Always Live Again, says M.I.A. as the listener attempts to understand just what’s running through her mind. She's always been at the forefront of alternative pop publicity. Whether it be with her chart stomping Clash-sampling "Paper Planes", or ginger-ghost-rider-"Born Free", M.I.A. always has something to say. It made sense that her first single from Matangi, "Bad Girls", was listed almost everywhere as a pop sensation. Before this, she released Maya, a re-worked M.I.A. sound that took out the banging hip-hop, and introduced industrial / electronica with tracks like "Steppin Up". Pop did seep through the YouTube volume lines with "XXXO" and "It Takes a Muscle", the latter being one of M.I.A.'s best album tracks to date. 

M.I.A. and her iconic images from the "Born Free" video re-appear throughout her work. It's no coincidence she continues this trait, as the imagery of "Born Free" was taken as literal - and not as a reference to genocide in Bangladesh. 
 

Leading up to Matangi's release next month, M.I.A. put out "Bring the Noize". Matangi already has its fair share of singles, and good ones of that. She's taking the genius of her early albums, and combining them with the sound of her electronic spectrum of light, Maya which was released three years ago. She's retained producer Switch, who has been a dominant member of M.I.A.'s sound creation since Arular in 2005. He produces the majority of M.I.A.'s best work, most of which has been built out of his innovative collaboration with Diplo, Major Lazer. Without "Pon De Floor" we probably wouldn’t be hearing "Y.A.L.A", or September's release "Come Walk With Me". Switch puts in the effort and his influence doesn't go a miss- it's in fact the Dutch DJ partnership of The Partysquad who gets credit for "Y.A.L.A", but you can definitely hear that glitch, electronic vocal beat used purposely by Switch in his instrumentals.


"Y.A.L.A" bears resemblance to M.I.A.'s sophomore album Kala. It has the refined beat found on "Bird Flu" and "Boyz", but with the bass lead and electronic chorus of "Paper Planes". There's no development in terms of M.I.A.'s constant search for difference, but the lyrical content points to this same = boring view. Taking her rant out with an opposite: You Always Live Again.The music content is dependent on the 90s dance beat and rhythm. There are segments of backing vocals, but it’s all secondary to the chorus.

Lyrically and musically, M.I.A. isn't breaking any boundaries here. She may be repelling against the community, or what was the community that were / are so infatuated with the phrase YOLO; but with "Y.A.L.A" she's not just dismissing it, she's bringing attention to it. The content means little, compared to The Lonely Island's not so obvious parody, which takes its platform from The Joy Formidable’s "Whirring". M.I.A. isn’t hitting the nail on its head by all means. And when deconstructed, at four and a half minutes, "Y.A.L.A" is long winded. Its constant pre-chorus alerts and slowly read lyrics give it a touch of the expected, where the novelty chorus fades off and what’s left becomes computer programs.  

Matangi will be an improvement on Maya, the evidence in the three pre-release singles suggests her fourth album will search for her roots, while staying modern with electronics galore. "Y.A.L.A" doesn't have the striking features that have always returned me to her work for the last eight years. It's too similar to tracks like "Pon De Floor", without the popular chart features that makes Beyoncé's "Run the World" a moderate sampling success.
~Eddie Gibson

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