Even before M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) debuted in 2005 with ARULAR, the blogosphere was already abuzz about her, engaging in the kind of discourse normally reserved for academic dissertations. Whether hailed as a canny postmodern pastiche or dismissed as inauthentic cultural pirating, the music, a lively pan-global mash-up of regional dance music styles, seemed to be emanating simultaneously from every ghetto, favela, and council-flat within earshot. As if to call out her detractors, M.I.A. returns for another shot of explosive, politically charged and globally conscious dance music on her second album, KALA.
Lacking the patchwork quality of the debut, KALA is a more cohesive and polished affair, though it matches its predecessor for shear visceral thrills. Recorded across several different continents, and featuring the production talents of Timbaland, Switch, and Blaqstarr, as well as longstanding collaborator Diplo, the globetrotting beat makers mine sources as varied as funk carioca, Baltimore bounce, and the occasional ludicrously placed sound-effect (a squawking chicken). The gloriously bombastic lead single, "Boyz," kicks off the party with a blaring horn loop, carnival percussion, and a stuttering Bollywood vocal sample, while M.I.A. merrily chants the chorus in her sing-song faux patois. The twittering, beat-heavy "Bird Flu" sounds a bit like what you might expect--jagged beats create syncopated poly-rhythms, while birds chirp feverishly against Arulpragasam's bratty invective. But the irreverent cultural re-appropriation doesn't stop at her borrowing from the third world; clever nods to the Clash, New Order, and even Jonathan Richman appear in unexpected and cheeky combinations, offering further proof that M.I.A.'s potent cross-cultural grab bag is as sonically audacious as ever.
Rolling Stone (p.65) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "It's heavier, noisier, more jagged....KALA strikes deep....A riot of human, musical and mechanical sounds bubbles underneath these tracks."
Rolling Stone (p.107) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Top Albums of the Year 2007" -- "M.I.A.'s second album was an international block party with a sonic imagination nobody could match all year."
Spin (p.127) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "M.I.A.'s border-crossing dance pop is a revolutionary manifesto set the victory party vibe of the future."
Entertainment Weekly (p.133) - "KALA is propelled by genuinely stellar moments: the manic thrall of 'Jimmy,' the ferocious gunshot-chorused 'Paper Planes.'" -- Grade: B
Uncut (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] head-spinning equatorial dash....She twangs the boundaries of taste both lyrically and musically. But a knockout's a knockout..."
The Wire (p.57) - "She has kept her globetrotting spirit intact in later years -- for Kala she's harvested inspiration and sounds from streets on every continent."
The Wire (p.37) - Ranked #8 in The Wire's "Top Ten Records of the Year 2007" -- "[The] album saw her in transcontinental globetrotting mode in search of the tribal beats, engine sounds and local pop samples mishmashed into KALA."
Q (Magazine) (p.76) - Ranked #34 in Q's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2007" -- "[H]ip hop by way of Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent..."