Past review: “Kala,” M.I.A.

30 Mar

“Kala” a second excellent effort by M.I.A. (originally published in Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal 08/2007)

BY SHEENA BARNETT

Kala

To say that M.I.A.’s second record, “Kala,” is just as good as her debut, “Arular,” is saying something.

Because “Arular” is an exquisite record, so to come back with something just as good is a testament to how incredibly talented M.I.A. is.

She’s made a career of mixing dance, electronica, world and hip-hop beats into bizarrely exhilarating tunes. Her music is literally mind-blowing: new listeners may have to put a few songs on repeat to fully comprehend what’s going on.

A prime example is the first single, “Boyz.” There’s so much happening, so many beats, so many competing vocals, that it’s almost a dizzying song. But M.I.A.’s chorus is loud and clear: “How many no money boys are crazy/How many boys are raw?/How many no money boys are rowdy/How many start a war?”

But not everything on “Kala” is so complicated.
“Jimmy” is a Bollywood disco song, and M.I.A. reworks it into perfection. It’s a swirling mass of beats, and M.I.A.’s breathy vocals recall “Heart of Glass”-ish Debbie Harry. It’s the best song on the album.

Though M.I.A.’s vocals are terrific, sometimes it’s a sound or guest vocalist that steals the spotlight.
In the gorgeous “Paper Planes,” sounds of gunfire and a ringing cash register highlight the chorus. Those two sounds back to back say more than anyone ever could with words.

“Mango Pickle Down River,” Aboriginal children rap along side M.I.A., and it works incredibly well.
M.I.A.’s music weaves in and out of personal and political (it’s all the same to her), but her political side is especially effective. Take, for example, “Bamboo Banga,” in which she describes Third World children chasing tourists: “Yeah I’m knockin’ on the doors of your Hummer, Hummer/We’re hungry like the wolves huntin’ dinner, dinner.”

M.I.A. had intended to work in the U.S. with master producer Timbaland, but a couple of problems stopped that collabo, for the most part. The one Timbaland track that made the album, “Come Around,” is the album’s weakest, only because it sounds so much like what else he’s produced – which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just not M.I.A.’s style.
“Kala” is one of the top albums of the year. Pick it up and give it a couple good spins – you’ll love what you hear.

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