Kala is a loud, bangin’ pop record that’s much less hip-hop leaning than M.I.A.’s previous album Arular and more overall about electronic production and creating dance tracks than her vocals.
With an almost childlike, playground chaoticness or aggressiveness, M.I.A. mixes futuristic electronic sounds with tribal drum beats, world music elements and rapping that’s both playful and in your face. It feels like a really refined album, but has a grimy, grittiness to it at times that makes you feel cool and energized while listening to it.
“Paper Planes,” is obviously one of the most iconic tracks of the 2000s and still holds up, but “Jimmy” and “20 Dollars” I think are additional standouts.
There are a few issues with Kala though, the first of which being that the album is cranked up in volume and energy the entire time. The first few songs are probably louder than they are actually good, and the album doesn’t really settle down until the back half.
And while “Paper Planes” may be the best song on the Kala, I actually don’t think it fits in all that well with the rest. It’s slower, and compared to the other dance tracks kind of kills the vibe a bit. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard it 100 times more than the other songs, but it feels much more traditional and contemporary than the rest of the record, which is more stimulating.
Overall, Kala is an interesting and energetic album with one-dimensional production that’s cool and great in the right situations — like when you really want to get moving or to dance around — but that doesn’t really work in most other settings.