Named after a ghetto Hindu goddess, M.I.A.’s fourth proper album pops with a relentless pounce and is filled with all the paradoxical imagery that the intro’s title Karmageddon conjures.
On the call-to-arms title track she breaks it down as a tsunami of percussion mounts: It’s so simple/Get to the floor. Then sets it off simply by rhyming different places – Gambia/Namibia/Bali/Mali/Chile/Malawi – in her inimitable cadence.
But it’s never simple with M.I.A. because in her words she’s Got a reputation/People see me as trouble. She plays vocal acrobat on Bring The Noize, tabbing herself the female Slick Rick and unleashing spitfire bars like Do you like my perfumes?/I made it at home with some gasoline and shrooms. Her playful side rhymes giddy up with light the city up and boards Boeings eating bananas. On atTENTion she flips the syllable tent 50 different ways.
Production by Switch, Hit-Boy, Danja and The Partysquad is just as enigmatic. Take Double Bubble Trouble where a trap intro gives way to a Rastafari sway before hitting up the dance hall and riding out on a beat Omar Souleyman might floss over. On other tracks, The Weeknd samples, intermittent ohmmms and slinking woofers flit through stutter-step rhythms and furrowed bass. Picture fire alarms going off in Trinidadian clubs.
Songs like Lights and Come Walk With Me are nice encapsulations of the record’s split personality: part pop gold, part way out there. Even when M.I.A.’s feeling frisky it’s nowhere near a quiet storm.
At one point she mandates: If you’re gonna be me you need a manifesto. Based on the shrill stance here, hers might go something like this Karmageddon line: My words are my armor and you’re about to meet your karma.
– Jake O’Connell, Associated Press