Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lacking #Willpower


                    Three years of waiting, and Will.i.am’s sophomore solo album has finally surfaced. After going through names changes (the tentative title was once Black Einstein), and some less-than-stellar attempts at lead singles (“Check It Out” was planned as a joint single between the BEP front-man and Nicki Minaj),  #Willpower has finally arrived. With the 2008 reinvention of the Black Eyed Peas in what the group described as “the digital afterlife”, Will changed singularly as an artist as well. And what a shame that is. His knack for making innovative hip hop that helped bring the Black Eyed Peas into the mainstream spectrum is absent here, while noticeably replaced with electronic dance music with little novelty to display. Where as Will’s raspy but charismatic vocals used to serve as an asset, his synthetically convoluted voice sounds like a bad advertisement for the T-Pain auto-tune app. From the beginning of the album’s first track, “Good Morning”, the artist’s synthetic crooning let’s you know that he’s still  living in that digital afterlife. Or rather, he’s stuck in it.  The problem is that the sound utilized throughout the album is dated rather than futuristic. While the hashtags and features are pleads of relevancy, the content to back it up is a perpetuated sound that is sonically akin to almost every other generic EDM song. The sound was somewhat inventive in 2008, but is far from new in the current pop atmosphere. However, there are a few guilty pleasures on the album. “This is Love” provides an anthemic dance track that demands blasting in the car and the clubs.

One of the more popular features on the album is provided by Justin Bieber, as seen above in the video for #ThatPower

                      Unsurprisingly, the best moments of the album stem from collaborations. Britney Spears singing in a British accent serves as one of the album’s highlights, as does Juicy J’s rap feature on “Freshy”. Skylar Grey, Eminem’s singing female protege, delivers her trademark haunting vocals in “Love Bullets”. 2NE1, a Kpop group featured on the song “Gettin’ Dumb”, was a rather pleasant surprise. They display a crisp, rap sound with all the attitude to match. There’s the expected and tired features as well. Nicole Scherzinger, Justin Bieber, and Chris Brown don’t really add anything unique to the project. “Fall Down”, which features Miley Cyrus, is an unfortunate and awkward pairing. Will and Miley’s voices together aren't exactly harmonious, and the fact that they’re rapping/singing explicit desires to each other is enough to make your skin crawl. “Geekin” is most reminiscent of old Will.i.am. material, but it is clear that staying true to his past is of no importance to producer and singer. Will seems to solely focus on being an artist of the moment rather than one of longevity. While it has it’s few high points, the new LP is disappoints for fans of his previous work. The album as a whole fails to demonstrate a consistency as an artist, and instead depicts a lack of “#willpower” as an end result.