Fergie and co deliver a high-energy collection of catchy tracks that is commercial to the E.N.D.
The Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D.
Do you remember where you were when you first heard the Black Eyed Peas' call to arms, Where Is the Love? It was unleashed on the world in 2003 and radios swiftly picked it up, alternating it with every other song, only reluctantly pausing it to read out the news every hour. The airwaves vibrated with the melody and its pleas for everyone to "gravitate to the love".
Skip forward six years and the Black Eyed Peas are still very much around, having perfectly honed their formula for upbeat, hip-hopping pop tunes for the iPod generation: find a catchy tune, add some high-pitched vocal work from Fergie, perhaps throw in a political message (this can be vague) and there you have it. Their last album, Monkey Business, sold nine million copies across the globe. Who can forget hits such as Don't Phunk With My Heart and My Humps?
The latest offering is their fifth studio album, titled The E.N.D. The more observant among you might have noticed that the Black Eyed Peas have a tendency to overuse full stops. The Head Pea is called will.i.am. Another of the foursome is named apl.de.ap. Unless they are channelling e.e. cummings, one might wonder about their education, but we know they went to school because that is where the pair met and bonded in the early 1990s over their love of hip-hop. They later recruited the third band member, Taboo, and finally Fergie in 2003.
By releasing an album called The E.N.D. they inevitably sparked rumours of a break-up. But no, will.i.am has since elucidated the matter: "It's a double entendre - Fergie taught me that phrase whereby something can mean one thing, but if you put the dots in it, it can mean something totally different, you know?" Absolutely, will.i.am. So the "E.N.D." apparently stands for "energy never dies". It's an apt title for the album, because all 70 minutes of it (15 tracks, plus a bonus one) are so full of beans that your eardrums feel like a lie down at the end. It's a relentless ride of tracks seamlessly blended into one another, all mostly marked by the overuse of synthesizers, drum machines and 1980s electro beats. "I'm so 3008. You're so 2000 and late," muses Fergie in the album's smash-hit first track, Boom Boom Pow. But let's be honest, much of it sounds like it's 1988.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and the album is a grower. Meet Me Halfway is a disco tune with Fergie taking pride of place behind the microphone, and the result has shades of early Madonna. Alive wouldn't sound out of place on the Flashdance soundtrack, but it's a happy sound, ripe for the summer. Then we skip on a bit, with more than a whiff of Daft Punk, to Rock That Body and Rockin' to the Beat, fun-loving names that hint at the album's theme - simply having a good time. "If we could party all night and sleep all day ... my life would be easy," goes the chorus to Party All the Time. It's not the most responsible message, perhaps, but remember that this is a group that has previously cried out Let's Get Retarded.
The album has been slickly produced with the help of big names such as David Guetta and Keith Harris. Will.i.am says the results have been layered together with younger fans in mind, the sort who don't have the concentration span to sit down and listen to an album from start to end but who will create their own playlists. "There is no longer a physical record store, but we will continue to let the beat rock," intones a gravelly computer-generated voice at one point on the album, emphasising its master's point. Who cares about playing it in the right order? That's so 20th century.
It's also unashamedly commercial and catchy enough to ratchet up the sales numbers. When Boom Boom Pow was released in the US in February, it spent nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The Peas and their producers might well decide to spin out One Tribe on its own now, too, a track that sounds like a cousin to Where Is the Love? "One tribe, one time, one planet, one race. It's all one blood, don't care about your face," it insists. Naff and sickly, yes. But in the E.N.D., the Peas remain a guilty pleasure despite that.