Review : Black Eyed Peas - The Beginning
RollingstoneIt's kind of poetic that Will.i.am was one of the last people to record with Michael Jackson. Whether or not you like the Black Eyed Peas, their 11 million-selling 2009 album, The E.N.D., is the closest thing we've had in the past few years to Thriller ó the ubiquitous pop album everybody lives with. The E.N.D. conquered Earth with a digital bum-rush built from hammering robo-beats, synth goo, elegiac Auto-Tune and overheated chant-rapping that makes Sisqó seem like a Rhodes scholar. In a moribund music biz, it's almost as if mystical belief in the power of crazy, cheesy bigness was its own kind of defiant idealism.
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Only a self-destructive maniac would mess with such alchemy, and The Beginning largely picks up where The E.N.D. left off: all in-the-red party jams and escapist whoosh. But with a notable exception: The E.N.D. came with a slathering of political sermonizing about hope, change and the power of the "now generation"; this time out, Will.i.am throws his support entirely behind the notion of people coming together on the dance floor. "I'll pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound," he Auto-yelps on "Play It Loud." Call it a DJ Hero democracy.
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The Peas have always been stylistically flexible, and on The Beginning, they give themselves over more fully than ever to the groove palette of club culture, stirring up electro funk, Euro-trance and classic disco, micromanaging every beep within an inch of its life. "It's in fashion to be blasting them beats," Will sings over a Chic sample on "Fashion Beats," which features Fergie's spot-on Debbie Harry hommage....full text
MusicOn siren-blaring club banger "Don't Stop The Party", Will.I.Am proclaims, "This is that original / There is no identical". Given their reliance on familiar samples on their latest album, that is a tough claim for Black Eyed Peas to make. They manage to turn a bit of eighties cheese, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' Dirty Dancing hit "Time Of My Life", into a Frankenstein-ish mash-up that is equal parts airy synth-pop and hip-hop club-thumper on "The Time (Dirty Bit)". Though it works fantastically for them on that track, their excessive use of samples and borrowed lines brings them ever closer to becoming a pop cover band.
They do their best Blondie impression with the shimmering guitar and blipping keyboards of "Fashion Beats", complete with Fergie attempting a modernized "Rapture" inspired rap. The synth melody driving "Love You Long Time" is technically original, if only because it cannot decide whether to lean heavier on The Who's "Baba O'Riley" or Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open The Door". Club anthem "Light Up The Night" recalls Slick Rick's "Children's Story" with its shaken beat and horns, and the twirling guitars buried under waves of synth on "Play It Loud" sound as if U2's The Edge mistakenly stumbled into the wrong studio. They do much better when paying homage, as with playful ode to text-messaging "Xoxoxo", with a hint of the early eighties break-dance loving rap of Newcleus' "Jam On It".
The more original works, like the fuzzy, grumbling "Do It Like This" and pulsating "The Best One Yet (The Boy)" are decent enough dace tracks, though Fergie's vocals on "Just Can't Get Enough" leave you wondering why they did not use her more on this effort. Though you can understand them employing some auto-tune to Will.I.Am's vocals on the chest-thumping, guitar-speckled club power-ballad "Someday", they unnecessarily damage Fergie's vocals on poppy acoustic love song "Whenever"; destroying what should be a showcase song for the singer. In the end, The Beginning is like spending a wild night at a cheesy eighties-themed nightclub. Sure, you have a blast, but you do not want to make it your regular hang and definitely do not want to see it with the lights on....full text
BbcThe dramatic, internet-fuelled crash in record sales has done weird things to pop. In decades passed, a gigantic global hit like previous Black Eyed Peas album The E.N.D. would infuse the mastermind behind it with a megalomaniac confidence, leading him to make the next album into a self-indulgent art statement that would either be masterpiece or brazen folly. But times have changed, and the main thing that The Beginning reminds us is that William Adams, aka will.i.am, led a self-consciously right-on, Fugees-lite, version of The Black Eyed Peas for eight years before hiring a singing blonde and grabbing a hit with the bland platitudes of Where is the Love?.
Therefore, and presumably with fear of past failure never far away, Will and company have followed monstrous success with an album that sounds like 2009ís Boom Boom Pow and I Gotta Feeling megahits got fed into a new software program that breaks songs into robot parts and reassembles them into infinite copies made slightly different by tiny details Ė a Chic sample here, a KC And The Sunshine Band melody there, a tweak of the ubiquitous auto-tuner everywhere. The Beginning is a depressing listen, not because the musicís that bad, but because it implies that even the most successful pop producer on the planet canít afford to indulge in anything that might be construed as intelligent or interesting, lest the masses run away screaming in terror. It betrays a contempt for its audience, and disquietingly low levels of self-belief on the part of corporate American pop.
You want details? Okay. Twelve songs called things like Donít Stop the Party, Just Canít Get Enough andÖ Lord help usÖ Love You Long Time. Beats shamelessly purloined from five-year-old electro-house tunes. An entire lyric sheet consisting of lines about being in clubs cribbed from older, cooler records. Fergie increasingly reduced to an Auto-Tuned vocal effect. The bit from Dirty Dancing in pre-ordained chart hit The Time (Dirty Bit) which sounds like cheeky pop hooliganism until you listen to the album and realise that BEP are not being ironic. Dirty Dancing fits the audience demographic, pure and simple. And one suspects that if someone at the label told them that Black Lace and The Birdie Song were the nostalgic faves of American Idol fans, Will would be hooking those babies up to something The Chemical Brothers left in a skip before you could say, "But wasnít Boom Boom Pow actually quite brilliant?"...full text
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