THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
Everybody knows M.I.A.’s first album was her best. It was independent, it was primitive, it was passionate, and it was radically different from anything we’d heard before. For her second album, Kala, M.I.A. got to team up with all kinds of name-brand producers and could afford to pay for a sample from The Clash’s, “Straight to Hell,” a song that, ironically, was also from The Clash’s “sell-out” album (Combat Rock). Sell-out isn’t my description, by the way, but it’s how lots of people see it when a punky upstart moves to a label and changes their sound. I call it progression. What artist wouldn’t want the world at their disposal?
Paper Planes was Kala’s breakout hit. Its use of a gunshot chorus and its depiction of drug sales led it to be redubbed by MTV, but all the cool kids knew this was the single that would define M.I.A.’s career.
Further listening: “Sunshowers” and “Galang.” Neither rise to GOAT level, but they’re damn fine songs.
Covers: Lots of remixes and covers are available, but here’s a few hot ones—with the first by MF DOOM, the greatest and truest indie rapper in the world. And one who never, ever sold out. The last is just…Wierd.