My favorite album of 2005 was M.I.A.'s Arular and, two years later, her album Kala, which hit stores yesterday is, without a doubt, my favorite album of 2007, thus far. Is it better than Arular? No. Is Arular better than Kala? No. Two different albums; Two different sounds; Both excellent in their own right. Whereas Arular sounds like the calling card of someone who has roots in the third world, Kala sounds like an artist who is totally immersed in it.
M.I.A., born Maya Arulpragasam, grew up amid a raging civil war in Sri Lanka which claimed the lives of some of her friends and relatives. The resulting chaos would force her to move with her family to London where they were housed as refugees. When listening to M.I.A.'s music, it's clear that this music is made with the dispossessed in mind because the artist creating the music is a dispossessed soul herself.
In the world of global music - and M.I.A.'s music is global music - nobody else compares, with the exception of Bob Marley. Both have crossover appeal. But, whereas Marley's cause seemed limited to Jamaica and the continent of Africa, M.I.A. is unique in that she relates to third world struggles on a much more global scale. Yet, despite all the chaos that she's experienced, her music is fun and catchy with an edge that is subtle yet powerful. She's political and feminist without being preachy and uptight. It's music that can be enjoyed by both hipsters and nonhipsters; blue-collar and white collar workers; third world and industrialized nations. M.I.A. reigns supreme as this decade's most important artist because her music - even with it's political leanings - is for EVERYBODY.