If this compilation of songs by platinum-selling artists from around the world were a true representation of "popular" international music, it would support the cynical view that what sells big in the home country is sure to bomb with world-music fans. From Khadja Nin in Burundi to George Dalaras in Greece to Zucchero in Italy to Emma Shapplin in France to I Muvrini in Corsica, the opening numbers here are uniformly overproduced, dull, and dirge-like. If you thought world music was about rhythm, think again.
In this context, Algerian rai star Khaled’s "Aisha" — one of his best-selling and least interesting songs — sounds downright funky. But the sleepy pace and anguished mood of a Peter Gabriel ballad is ubiquitous. There is some wonderful if overdone singing; there are even some nice melodies from Greece’s Notis Sfakianakis and Algeria’s Cheb Mami. The preponderance of Algerian rai music — four out of 14 tracks — reflects Mondo Melodia’s rai-heavy catalogue. These tracks are mostly good, but not good enough to save this odd compilation, where Greek-Canadian rocker Alannah Myles ranks as a world-pop standout. Popular doesn’t necessarily mean boring in world music. In countries like Senegal, Mali, and Zimbabwe, top-selling artists make lively and original music. Steering mostly clear of that, Mondo Platinum presents the dark side of cultural globalization.