I’m at a loss for words to describe Kala, the second album from London (by way of Sri Lanka) tastemaker M.I.A.
She’s certainly without borders; globe-trotting from Liberia to India to Jamaica to Brazil to Japan to Baltimore for a grab-bag of tribal, almost jarringly disjointed, array of sounds and beats. And regardless if her skills as an MC are up to snuff or her reliance on male producers (here Switch, DJ Blaqstarr, Timbaland, and Diplo lend a hand) is in question, songs like the Bollywood scorcher “Jimmy” and the frenetic voodoo of “Bird Flu” are examples of pop music its freshest and most dangerous precipice.
Polarizing as she may be, by cutting and pasting Clash samples (“Paper Planes”) or Oxfam philosophies (“World Town”) into giddy collages of melody and third-world representation, M.I.A. is taking a major stab at being both earth’s reigning diva (move over Bjork) and its 21st century conscious. It’s hard to try and convey the joy of such a dizzy album when one of your colleagues does it so much better.