Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D.
(Monday June 15, 2009 3:55 PM
Released on 08/06/09
If the "Energy Never Dies", as Black Eyed Peas' acronymically-titled fifth album has us believe, why do they continually sound like the most tired, idea-less group on the block? You can't knock their dedication to graft - mainman will.i.am has long fancied himself something of a production guru, with a knob-twiddling list bigger than his own ego, while, in the time between this and BEP's previous album, 2005's "Monkey Business", he and foil Fergie embarked on solo careers. Sadly, they resulted in arguably the worst singles of 2007 and '06 respectively: "I Got It From My Mama" and "London Bridge".
"E.N.D." opener "Boom Boom Boom" has a long way to go before it even tickles the room, mid-tempo beats cushioning a Fergie vocal that an autotune stuck on override can't sort out. Sampling Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It's Takes Two" for "Rock That Body" takes things back to 1988, not the mind-melting AD 3008 BEP claim to be living in on the opener; either it's yet more through-the-roof autotune here, or Akon's loaned his convict music chipmunks to the wider wack, mildly electro-hip-pop cause.
Black Eyed Peas have made the same self-deluded mistake as Kanye did with 2007's "Graduation" and Common on last year's "Universal Mind Control": just because you overly embrace electro for the first time in your own career (and, seriously, as this decade comes to a close, that's about as unexpected as having DJs remix old Elvis/Johnny Cash/rockabilly tracks), that doesn't mean it sounds fresh to outside ears.
But therein lies the peril of being such a self-contained unit. Sheltered major label players in the same way as your Fiddys and Nellys, Black Eyed Peas have arguably only managed to trick people into thinking they're coming with the fresh beats thanks to their self-consciously "wacky" attire, Fergie going some way towards positing herself as the R&B hero to chavs, and will.i.am hanging out once or twice with Prince - a man who, yes, genuinely changed electro-pop forever in the '80s, but is now as equally confused about what he thinks he's doing with music, compared to what we're actually hearing.
will.i.am grandly told Billboard this album has a life-cycle that can be updated "at any given time, depending on the inspiration", presumably online, "where there could be 110 songs, 50 sketches, 1,000 blogs". Problem is, BEP have never been a concept group, much less an albums one, wearing this hat as uncomfortably as those jodhpurs will's rocked in the past. With any luck, however, this amorphous mess will mark the end.
by Jason Draper
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