Album Reviews

Black Eyed Peas – The Beginning

(Polydor) UK release date: 29 November 2010

Black Eyed Peas - The Beginning The beginning of The Beginning is a heinous rip of (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life from the Dirty Dancing 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, is the world of Black Eyed Peas.

This year has seen the ascension of dance music on a popular scale. While the artistic auteurs have stayed austere and secluded – you won’t see James Blake DJing an MTV afterparty anytime soon – somehow a guy like Deadmaus has become an international megastar and a crusty old producer like Tiësto is known in schoolyards right across America. Black Eyed Peas, in their way, have done their best to keep up. Since coming to fame as the stupidest, most work-safe crew this side of Bloodhound Gang, they now more closely resemble a disjointed group of MCs who occasionally come together to sing or rap over wonked, fritzed and blared 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 matter how brainless it may make them look, the band’s modus operandi includes only a delirious night at the club amid neon lights. There is not a scrap of nuance. When Fergie begins to sing over a hackneyed-as-hell acoustic guitar on Whenever, it only takes 30 seconds for a 4/4 beat to start pulsing, one minute for to appear coated in auto-tuned echo, and a mere 28 seconds to rhyme skies, lights, delight, and finally, eyes.

The songcraft being questionable is one thing, but’s productions sound like the bare minimum one could throw together and call a beat, usually encompassed by a simplified drum sequence and a buzzsaw synth turned up to the red and repeated long enough for DJs to make their paycheck. Take for instance Fashion Beats, a hedonistic French house boomer that’s about three minutes’ worth of material, but in the hands of Black Eyed Peas it’s stretched out to a baffling five – which does neither the band nor the production any favours. If they’d stick to the punchy bangers they’re built for, they’d have a chance of escaping critical taboo and maintaining their commercial dominance. But whether it’s a question of ineptitude or pride, the band has a knack of elongating their elementally good ideas into preposterously tiresome compositions.

Black Eyed Peas need to reach an ultimatum: either stick to the single market that has made them rich, or buckle down and invest in areal album., despite being a terrible rapper and an intellectually boring producer, certainly knows how to whip up a riotous instrumental, and those talents have a market far beyond the club. With the right group of people (that is, without Fergie) he has a chance to bring something marketable and moving to the pop landscape. He’s had flashes – the euphoric bounce of I Gotta Feeling could soundtrack a thousand midnight episodes of exhilaration – but he’s never aimed that high. If Black Eyed Peas want to sing, dance and rap about having good nights and getting laid, that’s fine; but expecting a discerning audience to buy this bottle-rocket crap as an album is pure delusion. If they’re truly trying to achieve more, The Beginning is a pretty awful start.

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