M.I.A.

Arular

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    10
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AllMusic Review by

A cursory listen to Arular makes one wonder how it could generate so much heated, in-depth talk, as it did well before its official release. This is very direct and physical party music, with lots of slang-filled phrasings that might not have any more meaning than "The roof is on fire!" or "Dizzouble dizzutch!" to Americans. It's music that is conducive to dancing or doing other carefree things in the sunshine, rather than what you should hear most often through feeble computer speakers in dimly lit rooms. So why bother discussing it at all? Well, below the surface is a lot more than anyone's basic idea of a good time. The blend of styles -- a dense, often chaotic collage of garage from the U.K., dancehall from Jamaica, crunk from the Dirty South, electro and hardcore rap from New York, and glints of a few others -- is unique enough to baffle anyone who dares categorize it. Beats crack concrete in whomping blasts and scramble senses in exotic patterns; flurries of percussive noise, synthetic handclaps, and synth jabs add chaos; exuberant vocals are delivered in a manner that will be frequently unintelligible to a lot of ears. More importantly, once all the layers of rhythm and accents are peeled away, you'll hear that Maya Arulpragasam -- the London-based woman of Sri Lankan origin who, along with a host of fellow producers, is behind the album -- has a lot more on her mind and in her past than fun, even when she's only alluding to the violence and strife her people have endured. The images that adorn the cover of the album aren't present merely for the sake of design, either; the tanks aren't a nod to the No Limit label. (Enter 10,000-word history of pre-tsunami Sri Lanka here.) The one key definite about Arular is that it's the best kind of pop album imaginable. It can be enjoyed on a purely physical level, and it also carries the potential to adjust your world view.

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