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Review

M.I.A. falls short of expectations, despite ‘big name’

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November 6, 2008

I know there has been some criticism over my past couple reviews, mostly for the fact that a large percentage of readers have never heard of the artists I choose to review. In response to the criticism, I’ve decided to review something for anyone who listens to mainstream radio, the Weekly Top 40 or are avid MTV watchers.

If you are any of the above, I feel quite sorry for not only the bones of your inner ear, but any cell in your brain forced to process the pathetic crap coming from these sources. With that said, this week I have chosen to review an album from 2007 that recently exploded almost overnight. The artist, M.I.A, the album, “Kala.”

If you’re still asking yourself, “who the hell is M.I.A”? Quickly flip on 101.3 KDWB and listen for about an hour, I’m sure you’ll hear the catchy lyrics or the remnants of the hit song “Paper Planes.” Now that you have an idea of whom I’m reviewing, please read on.  Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known by her stage name, M.I.A. is what many would call a genre confused British/ Sri Lankan Tamil commonly known for her questionable political lyricism.

Not only is M.I.A. a worldwide success with her overly catchy and politically questionable songwriting, but she is also a record producer, author and visual artist. After mild file sharing success of her first album, M.I.A entered the studio in 2006 to record her follow-up album which was named after her beloved Mother, Kala.

She claims that this album is far less political and more personal than its predecessor, “Arular”-that statement in itself is misleading. “Arular” is incredibly political as she is seemingly obsessed with the idea of her long lost father. She has many songs that describe her father’s role as a player in the Sri Lanka’s terrorist-revolutionary Tamil Tigers.

According to Rolling Stone Magazine, “Kala” features M.I.A. as “star access enables a woman who grew up an impoverished refugee to observe the outcomes of similar histories in immigrant and minority communities worldwide. If you don’t think that’s political, ask your mama-or hers, who’s named Kala.” “Kala” is an album that portrays M.I.A. as someone who is obsessed with Euro-American culture.

The first couple tracks of “Kala” sound almost like some sort of tribal declaration of ethnicity. I felt almost taken back after knowing the radio worthy hit “Paper Planes.” To think that M.I.A. sought out infamous Timbaland to do the production of this album, I expected quite a bit more. “Kala” doesn’t offer much more than “Paper Planes” for the casual listener.

On the other hand, if you’re an avid underground electronic follower, you might find some worth in this album. To me, it’s a mish mash of overly hokey political lyricisms that, to be totally honest, don’t make a bit of damn sense.

Don’t waste your hard earned college cash, stick to getting your free single of a KDWB sampler or other means of acquiring the only song worth listening to.

The moral of the story is, just because you have a big name, American hip-hop artist for your producer does not mean you will produce a successful American hip-hop album.

Erik Wood is a student at UW-River Falls.