There are more reasons than ever to use music as an escape from the harsh realities of the cruel world. The Black Eyed Peas know that and are more than happy to oblige.
"If we could party all night and sleep all day, my life would be easy," the quartet sings on "Party All the Time," which, like the other 14 tracks on "The E.N.D.," is an unabashed call to leave your troubles behind, or at least dance away from them as fast as you can. The CD, whose title stands for "The Energy Never Dies" is a non-stop electronic dance party of shifting beats and tempos.
Opening track and first single, the frenetic "Boom Boom Pow" has already turned into the biggest hit of the group's career and there's no shortage where that came from.
But what stands out about "The E.N.D." is not how hit laden it is (and trust me, they'll go deep on this one), but that Will.I.Am and company totally refute the dogged rumors that they're sold out to the mainstream by putting some tracks on here that are way too beat-heavy to ever get played on Top 40 radio. For example, "Rock That Body" opens like something from Fatboy Slim before evolving into a hypnotic dance track that is sure to be a club hit, but is too hardcore for mainstream.
In that one song lies the key to Black Eyed Peas' longevity. For every ultra mainstream hit (and since when is it a crime to want to appeal to a wide audience?), there's a track that brings fresh ideas that people will be imitating for years. There no sense, not ever remotely, that they are resting on their laurels here. Will.I.Am, and to a lesser extent, band matesApl.de.Ap, Taboo and Fergie, are musical alchemists constantly on the search for collaborators to help them create something new in the laboratory. This time they turn to MSTRKRFT, boy-of-the-moment David Guetta, Boys Noize, Keith Harris and Paper Boy.
Other stand-outs include "Out of My Head," has a cool, '70s, Kool & the Gang-crossed-with-Millie Jackson vibe (and features an admittedly very tipsy Fergie). "Meet Me Halfway" is a lushly romantic sentiment wrapped in strings and beats. Similarly, "Missing You," with a strong vocal by Fergie, is a heartache set to a clap-along.
"The E.N.D." is not without its missteps: Every now and then a mechanical voice comes on to remind us that the most powerful force on the planet is the energy of the youth before issuing an ominous warning of what happens if they stop spending or that there are no more physical record stores (no so fast there, BEP....). The voice serves as an interruption and annoyance rather than any kind of futuristic enhancement.
Plus, the autotuned "Alive" sounds like something off of Kanye West's "808s and Heartbreak," meaning it's already been done better and fresher. Speaking of autotuning... take a lesson from Jay-Z and give it a little bit of a rest, fellas.
We could discuss lyrics, but what's the point? That's not meant as an insult to BEP, just the reality. In most cases, the words are incidental to the beats, as they should be. They're used to hang a lyrically paper-thin idea upon in such songs as "Boom Boom Pow" or new single, "I Gotta Feeling." Other times, they are absolutely non-sensical, like dub-fused "Ring-a-ling," an absurdly catchy tune about booty calls.
It's when The Peas try to bring a message that they sink into a little trouble. "Now Generation" addresses our current obsession with instant gratification, but do we really want a finger-shaking from the Peas---especially when they better hope we instantly feel like plunking down our money for "The E.N.D." At least they're smart enough to wrap the litany of lists in punky, guitar-driven beats. Because, really, who wants to be bombarded with messages when there's a dance floor to hit.