8 Notes on the New M.I.A. Album
Because I don't have time to write a legit record review, here are some quick notes on listening to Kala:
8) First, the politics. Maya's critics seem to present her songs as equivocally advocating various causes. This seems foolish. I suspect what MIA is actually doing is more like acting. And I don't mean just conveniently sampling subversive agitprop (she seems to legitimately understand the cultural issues). Rather, Maya uses songwriting to play out the roles of various third-world revolutionary characters. So when you hear her talking about the Tamil Tigers or Palestine, it's not exactly "her opinions" as much as the voice of people she's encountered. Critics insist on imposing autobiography on this album, but it seems more like contemporary historical fiction.
7) Someone could write an entire review of Kala's aggressive stance against being danceable.
6) It's difficult to come up with musical comparison points with MIA -- The Clash is probably the best lazy comparison right now. But do you know who Maya should really be compared to? Star architects. I'm totally serious -- they fly around the world, observe a society, pick up pieces local culture, and adapt it to their own style. MIA is a starchitect. She's more like Rem Koolhaas than Gwen Stefani.
5) Most confusing culture reference on the new album: "Price of living in a shanty town just seems very high / But we still like T.I."
4) Second place: "So I woke up with my Holy Koran / And found out I like Cadillac."
3) And yet: "Sex is cheap / I get it at the KFC."
2) The best song on the album is "Paper Planes," which also happens to be produced by the somewhat estranged Diplo. As Margaret said to the me the other day, there's never been a better song in which sound effects replace words. But beyond all that, the production of the song is so strange -- it has a reggae-light beat, but the sounds underneath are totally like nothing else.
1) This is the only album I can think of in which the remixes will likely be better than the album. And it's not because the songs are bad, but rather because there's something sorta raw about the tracks. It's like an album of source-material.