I’m definitely a couple months behind on this, but I finally got around to grabbing M.I.A.’s Kala. All I can say is holy crap. Holy, holy crap.
I could happily post any of the 12 songs/internationally informed electro seizures on here, but really, you can’t get much better than this one, even though it’s slower and sunnier (in a way) than the rest of the album. If this is where pop music is headed, sign me the fuck up. This is some N.W.A.-with-a-bashful-smile type ish.
M.I.A.: “Paper Planes” [from Kala, 2007]
Her last record was fun as hell, but it definitely wore out after a while, and I was semi-surprised to learn today that it didn’t even make my 2005 Top 10 list. But I can’t see this one petering out. There’s so much to grab onto here and it’s worlds more complex than Arular was both lyrically and musically. When was the last time a pop record spit lines like “But I hate money ’cause it makes me numb” and had armed-robbery choruses carried by gunfire?
The beats, programmed by Miss Maya Arulpragasam herself with the help of Switch, Diplo and a few others, are motherfucking bonkers from start to finish. By the time you get to the Timbaland track you’re ready to tell him to just hang it up. (You just know his “protege” Danja has been doing the heavy lifting lately. Thanks again for Missy’s “Work It” and JT’s “My Love,” though.)
I’m not even going to get into all the details of references and appropriations and whatnot — you can read Dan Nishimoto’s excellent review for the details — but M.I.A.’s argument that Kala is more feminine than Arular holds water only in the way that you can say women tend to let men think they’re running things when they are realistically in control of every situation.
Kala is far more aggressive in both sound and theme than her debut record, more directly challenging authorities, logic, and governments across the world — and that’s not even counting Afrikan Boy barking “You think it’s tough now?/ Come to Africa” on “Hussel” (probably my second-favorite track on this record).
Between her smarts, her obvious international appeal, and her willingness to take serious risks with her music, she certainly seems like she could end up being a huge force in music around the world. No exaggeration. More sweetly sung .45-caliber choruses, please!