I was looking forward to receiving my copy of Monkey Business, not because I’m a particularly big fan of Black Eyed Peas but just to see if this quartet could surpass 2003’s Elephunk. A tall order indeed but the early signals were that they may just have pulled it off.
Album opener Pump It Up is based around a sample of Misirlou, best known from Pulp Fiction, and it’s as exciting an introduction to an album as you’re likely to hear. It’s aggressive in a harmless way while at the same time epitomising the hip-pop/ funk that the Black Eyed Peas represent.
Having already praised lead single Don’t Phunk With My Heart I’ve got very little to add except for the fact that despite having already been played to death it still gets me smiling. As a minor point it does not work at all as a club track, however it caps off the exciting beginning to Monkey Business.
Then something horrible happens; listen to the album with a mirror in front of you and you’ll notice your unintentional change in facial expression. Admittedly My Style is a Timbaland production and features Justin Timberlake on vocals, but still a bad track is a bad track. Maybe a slight mishap – surely it’s just a minor blip after the electric opening?
If only. Don’t Lie is weird, it’s definitely similar to Joni Mitchell‘s Big Yellow Taxi. And for some reason Fergie’s vocals are akin to Hanson’s when those fresh-faced Americans first began to annoy us. It gets weirder though with My Humps which is a bit like Gwen Stefani‘s Hollaback Girl. There’s a strange electro-beat to it that, mixed with the materialistic and sexually charged lyrics, is uneasy but it does seem to fit Fergie’s persona while Wil.i.am’s vocals suit him down to the ground.
Despite the big guns being rolled out for Like That the beat is so out of sync with the raps that Q-Tip, Talib Kweli and man of the moment John Legend would have been better off not bothering with this collaboration. However Dum Diddly does have definite single potential with its much more upbeat nature.
It’s only when The Black Eyed Peas’ eccentricity shines through that the music works. And Dum Diddly, from its stupid name to fast beat and tight vocals is them at their best. Going Gone changes the flow with a more country feel based around John Jackson‘s Gone. But there’s an immediate opportunity for that to be all messed up with They Don’t Want Music. It’s more jazz lounge funk, but it’s an embarrassment to James Brown who makes a guest appearance.
It really doesn’t improve after that, tailing off disappointingly confirming that Monkey Business doesn’t have a shadow on Elephunk. It was also impossible to listen to in one sitting because it’s too much of a strain on the brain to absorb. Expect anything spectacular from this album and you’ll feel very much short-changed, not even an appearance from Geordie boy Sting improved my opinion of Monkey Business, despite the opening two brilliant tracks.