Black Eyed Peas “The E.N.D” (2009)

BEP

From the June 15, 2009 issue of The Miami Herald (web / print)

The members of The Black Eyed Peas have worn many hats in the last 11 years: They’ve managed to work their way from backpacking b-boys in the pre-Fergie era, to Kumbaya-singing war protesters, to unflinching, unabashed pop stars. The group has successfully managed to create an image that is equal parts early De La Soul and Backstreet Boys.

So in what form do they show up on their fifth studio album? For better or worse, The E.N.D (The Energy Never Dies) is more “My Humps” than “Joints & Jam” — A nonstop run of high-energy, low substance electro-pop that will surely dominate the dance floor, but won’t enlighten many listeners.

Musically, bandleader and producer will.i.am (with some help from French house artist David Guetta of “Love is Gone” fame) provides lush backdrops of layered synthesizers, deep basslines and electronic drums that segue each song to the next, making The E.N.D ideal for party environments.

“I Gotta Feeling” is the type of undeniable, ubiquitous feel-good song that will surely be used in commercials and movie soundtracks for years to come. Equally compelling is “Rock That Body,” a robotic club-banger that digitally distorts Fergie’s voice beyond recognition along a sample of Rob Base’s voice from the seminal ’80s hip-hop anthem “It Takes Two.”

More common, though, are disposable songs like “Boom Boom Pow,” the minimalist first single with little discernible structure or chorus, the abrasive and annoying “Imma Be” and the deceptively raunchy ode to booty calls, “Ring-A-Ling.” Can you guess what they rhyme that with?

But 15 songs of sugary dessert is bloating to the listener, and will keep you yearning for a more substantive meal. Even the two politically aware songs, “Now Generation,” a screeching pair of Blues Traveller-esque harmonicas and punk rock drums, and  the Paul Simon-lite “One Tribe,” are relegated to the album’s end so as to not interfere with the party. Why concern ourselves with the world’s problems when we’re having so much fun?

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