MIA Matangi (Interscope) ⋆⋆⋆⋆
The controversy queen Mathangi Arulpragasam’s long-delayed fourth album comes with a dramatic backstory that includes her scandalous Superbowl performance alongside Madonna and a bitter custody battle with her millionaire ex-boyfriend. Fortunately, the British-Sri Lankan electro-rapper also appears to thrive on trouble, because Matangi is her most exhilarating and multifaceted album yet, from the Bollywood-goes-gangsta party-slammer Bad Girls to the incendiary bank-bashing anthem Bring the Noize. Between angry outbursts, she also proves to be in playful and inventive moods, building an infectious robotic groove around a single repeated syllable in the clever wordplay experiment aTENTion and even mocking her post-Superbowl legal problems in the short, sharp, sarcastic Boom-Skit. While Matangi contains nothing as instantly pop-friendly as her Clash-sampling 2008 hit Paper Planes, Arulpragasam still covers the full emotional and musical spectrum here. She can be demanding, confusing and abrasive at times, but MIA still sounds like nobody else in modern pop.