It's not often these days that a new album gets past my cold hard exterior of cynicism and weary indifference to actually make me feel something. The Beginning, the latest from Black Eyed Peas manages it though for all the wrong reasons. It's not that I've ever been a fan of theirs, but at least in the past you could count on Will.I.Am and his other preposterously named cohorts to come up with the odd good hit; Shut Up is a decent song, My Humps was ridiculous but undeniably catchy, and it all seemed to come together on I Gotta Feelin. But The Beginning falls so far short of even my modest expectations that I found myself getting really wound up just listening to it.
It's not just the sense of talent being wasted, but the obvious lack of finesse or any sort of care gone in to the process of making this album. This hasn't been crafted, just thrown together and packaged up, shamefully, into standard, Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions, all conveniently available in time for the lucrative Christmas market. Black Eyed Peas see themselves as some sort of 'future hip-hop' group, which apparently means an abundance of over-compressed sounding electro/dance beats, robotic one-paced rapping, and practically every line spoken or sung either cut to pieces, or autotuned beyond recognition. Kanye has a hell of a lot to answer for if this is the future of hip-hop.
Honestly, high points are difficult to pick out. Light Up the Night is a bit of a floorfiller, with all the same ingredients that made the group's recent singles so successful, but it just isn't up to the same standard. After that the best moments are in the last three tracks, especially on Just Can’t Get Enough, and Play It Loud.
The lack of invention on this album is astonishing though; real artists might have had the decency to shelve an album if ideas were this thin on the ground, but not the Black Eyed Peas. Stuck for a song? Just re-hash (I've Had) The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing, and put in a dirty electro wig-out in the middle, there you've got first single The Time (Dirty Bit). Can't think of any lyrics? Umm, just chant "hugs and kisses" over and over again, and call it XOXOXO. Yeah, that'll do.
It's been mooted that Will.I.Am wants to take little Cher Lloyd under his wing after hearing her sing during the X Factor. If this is what Cheryl Cole was referring to when she told Cher she could be a 'credible artist' after the X Factor, then I hate to say it, but she might be better off staying within the safe confines of the Cowell stable. Mr I.Am's horse has bolted, along with his credibility.
Final Score: 15%