The beginning of The Beginning is a heinous rip of (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life from the DirtyDancing soundtrack, taking a well nigh universally known song and pushing it out onto the dancefloor even though its knickers have fallen down and it’s chucked up in the toilets. This, in 2010, isthe world of The Black Eyed Peas.
This year has seen the ascension of dance music on a popular scale. While the artistic auteurs have stayedaustere and secluded – you won’t see James Blake DJing an MTVafterparty anytime soon – somehow a guy like Deadmaus has become aninternational megastar and a crusty old producer like Ti�sto is known in schoolyards right across America. The Black Eyed Peas, in their way, have done their best to keep up.Since coming to fame as the stupidest, most work-safe crewthis side of Bloodhound Gang, they now more closely resemble adisjointed group of MCs who occasionally come together to sing or rap over wonked, fritzed andblared house beats. And the beats are occasionally good; if anything,this new era for the band pushes to one side whatever one thinks of the specific personalities at play.
But as before, so now; the Peas are only concerned with the party jam. No matterhow brainless it may make them look, the band’s modus operandi includes only adelirious night at the club amid neon lights. There is not a scrap ofnuance. When Fergie begins to sing over a hackneyed-as-hell acousticguitar on Whenever, it only takes 30 seconds for a 4/4 beat to startpulsing, one minute for will.i.am to appear coated in auto-tuned echo,and a mere 28 seconds to rhyme skies, lights, delight, andfinally, eyes.
The songcraft being questionable is one thing, but will.i.am’s productions sound like the bare minimum one could throwtogether and call a beat, usually encompassed by a simplifieddrum sequence and a buzzsaw synth turned up to the red andrepeated long enough for DJs to make their paycheck. Take for instance Fashion Beats, a hedonistic French house boomer that’s about three minutes’ worth ofmaterial, but in the hands of The Black Eyed Peas it’s stretched outto a baffling five – which does neither the band nor theproduction any favours. If they’d stick to the punchy bangers they’rebuilt for, they’d have a chance of escaping critical taboo andmaintaining their commercial dominance. But whether it’s a question ofineptitude or pride, the band has a knack of elongating theirelementally good ideas into preposterously tiresome compositions.
The Black Eyed Peas need to reach an ultimatum: either stick to thesingle market that has made them rich, or buckle down and invest in areal album. will.i.am, despite being a terrible rapper and anintellectually boring producer, certainly knows how to whip up ariotous instrumental, and those talents have a market far beyond theclub. With the right group of people (that is, without Fergie) he hasa chance to bring something marketable and moving to the poplandscape. He’s had flashes – the euphoric bounce of I Gotta Feelingcould soundtrack a thousand midnight episodes of exhilaration – buthe’s never aimed that high. If The Black Eyed Peas want tosing, dance and rap about having good nights and getting laid, that’sfine; but expecting a discerning audience to buy this bottle-rocket crap as analbum is pure delusion. If they’re truly trying to achieve more,The Beginning is a pretty awful start.