Will.i.am has amassed an astonishingly successful career out of throwing one hell of a party. As the driving force behind the multi-platinum selling Black Eyed Peas, as well as one of the most sought after producers in the game, there’s no denying will.i.am’s ear for hit music. However, the BEP front man certainly had a lot to prove following his last solo effort, 2007’s Songs About Girls.
That disc debuted at a disappointing #38 on the Billboard 200, with only 21,000 copies sold. Although it generated one minor hit, “I Got it from My Mama,” the man behind some of hip-hop’s most irresistible tracks knew he could do better. With his first album in six years, #willpower delivers a more enjoyable, hard-hitting bash than we’ve seen in the past. Will.i.am’s musical conceptions have always revolved around clubbing, drinking and losing yourself to the ambiguities of the night. While this disc is no different, so much seems to be happening that you forget everything besides the beat. This can be both good and bad.
The good comes from a collection of songs that serve as the perfect soundtrack to an endless rave. Will.i.am’s eccentric mix of rap, auto-tune and 808 trickeries create a futuristic club extravaganza. Obviously taking notice of the success of David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, the music is fun, but not much else. Many of the songs sounds too reminiscent of the BEP and could have come straight off their albums (#thatPOEWER and Fall Down). But the BEP had a knack for including at least two or three catchy, inescapable hooks per release. With the exception of “Scream & Shout” ft. Britney Spears, this is sorely lacking. And much like the BEP, the lyrics contain little to no substance. There’s only so much the man can boast about material possessions (“Geekin’,” and “Freshy”) or getting plastered (“Gettin’ Dumb”). When will.i.am does attempt his usual wordplay, it comes off as cheesy at best, like a 2013 Lil Wayne.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its moments. The single “Scream & Shout” will no-doubt turn a club on its head. “Love Bullets” and “Far Away From Home” stand up as catchy, upbeat pop songs. Will.i.am even gets a little insightful on “The World is Crazy” and “Ghetto Ghetto.” But don’t expect to see him with a Pulitzer anytime soon.
Out of the 15 songs, only four see will.i.am spitting solo. Collaborations seem to be his M.O. And while some work (Britney, Chris Brown and Skylar Grey), others miss their mark (Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus). Will.i.am makes music you don’t have to think too hard to enjoy. Some might see this as an advantage, others might see subpar pop. Towards the middle of the album, the following statement is uttered: “To have the time of your life, you must abandon all logic and inhibitions.” It’s clear this disc simply serves up a good time. No more, no less.
3/5 Stars. #willpower drops Apr. 23.