2007 was a banner year for Sri-Lanka-by-way-of-London artist M.I.A.—Mathangi Arulpragasam, if you're nasty (or a showboat). With the release of her highly anticipated sophomore effort Kala, M.I.A's worldly, hip-hop-fueled, throw-everything-from-the-fridge-at-the-wall-until-it-sticks philosophy to music making found itself tops in the eyes and ears of music critics across the globe. The disc itself was a smash, thanks in no small part to her gunpoint stick-up anthem "Paper Planes," which found inspiration in, of all places, Wreckx-N-Effect's "Rumpshaker."
It's not that Kala was really all that different from 2003's Arular—it wasn't. It was, however, a welcome gift of more of the same, with a step toward a reluctant maturation. And that's kind of M.I.A.'s charm. She's childish to an extent, with her playful persona and her kooky hipster fashion sense, and yet she concurrently showcases a Third World flair, a political know-how and a sense of place in the current international climate that seems ahead of its time. Maybe, by the time Kala was released, the world had only further succumbed to globalization, and M.I.A. seemed the logical musical successor. Maybe we just needed a frail-looking but tough as nails Southeast Asian descendant to flash a mirror in front of our faces in 2007.
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It's tough to say for sure what made M.I.A. such a stalwart in 2007. But, it's not like it really matters: When the music starts playing and the crowd starts dancing, you won't really give a damn.