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The Black Eyed Peas “The Beginning” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

The Black Eyed Peas’ sixth studio album, The Beginning, closes with a modern mission statement as announced by frontman will.i.am, “I pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound/Music is my medicine, let the rhythm pound.” Now, long gone are the days when critics were able to relevantly bash the group for trading in their socially conscious vibe for a gorgeous female lead. Having pushed some 27 million albums worldwide, will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo have done little along the way to suggest that the modern version of the Black Eyed Peas isn’t what they had in mind when laying the foundation for the “BEP Empire” a decade ago. While this is old news and would otherwise be hardly worth mentioning, remembering the group’s progress is vital to understanding the motivation behind their music. Revealing the underlying meaning behind calling the new album “The Beginning,” will.i.am recently explained how it’s “about being experimental and taking songs we’ve liked from the past and playing around with sick, crazy beats.” The concept coincides perfectly with his claim in “Play It Loud,” and after absorbing the album it would be an uphill battle to argue that The Beginning doesn’t rely heavily on playing around with sounds from the past. The only problem here is that the album, itself, is largely stuck in this retro limbo, focused so narrowly on recreating latter day “sick” and “crazy beats” that it fails to formulate an identity of its own.

Opening with “The Time (Dirty Bit),” the album wastes little time in confirming this point. While it’s no sin to recreate hits from the past or manipulate iconic hooks, the disco-friendly vibe of the track bears a far greater resemblance to the 1998 recreation of “If You Could Read My Mind” used in the film 54 than it does a track with a forward thinking beat. Additionally, the progressive electronics that are to somehow spark a bit of energy during the “Dirty Bit” moments fail to project any sort of genuine enthusiasm; combined with apl.de.ap’s unfortunately limp verse, the single sounds like anything but a party anthem.

From there the production becomes arguably laughable as songs such as “Light Up the Night,” “Someday” and “Don’t Stop the Party” offer little audible fuel to ignite any fire on the dance floor. “Love You Long Time” is as offensively dense as its title suggests, the track’s digital augmentation stretched to its breaking point as will.i.am and Fergie work their call and response, “Would you let me love you, let me love you long time?” Sadly, the song is just one of many that might otherwise be forgivable had the group not relied on such lazily crafted lyrics. But rather than point fingers at Fergie for the clumsy vocal fodder, maybe blame should be aimed at the trio of MCs for phoning it in and hiring a staff of commercially-motivated songwriters when they have clearly proven themselves capable of so much more. Instead the group is reduced to “This shit’s money nigga, this shit’s green/This shit is terrifying: Halloween” (“Do It Like This”) and “I’ve got it all in my pocket and we gonn’ rock it” (“Light Up the Night”).

While it’s easy to focus solely to the negative, doing so wouldn’t allow for a fare assessment of The Beginning. The pulsating beat in “The Best One Yet (The Boy)” carries with it some honest depth and the Fergie-driven deluxe edition track “The Situation” projects itself with ample vocal flair. As is teased with the latter, there are a number of moments where the group produces a fresh and energetic aesthetic, but for the vast majority of the album the Black Eyed Peas carelessly put too much faith in marginally passable beats and generic, mindless lyrics; no different than with last year’s The E.N.D., or the two Fergalicious albums before it, really. A proven equation that will likely result in another multi-platinum chart-topper. In the end though it’s a shame that the group places such an emphasis on an “allegiance to rhythm and sound” when all they’ve ever needed to create a good album was the remotest bit of soul.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]