Released November 2010 by Interscope
Admittedly if you have not been visiting clubs or listening to the songs that have brought people to the dance floor over the last 35 years, the Black Eyed Peas' latest effort may sound like a mere mishmash of electronic effects, party hooks, and goofy lyrics. However, the mad genius of will.i.am in weaving together samples, classic dance music instrumentation and production styles has created a grand tour of dance pop influences interwoven to result in Black Eyed Peas' back to the future nonstop musical party for peace.
One Foot Anchored Firmly In the Party Past
Most pop music fans are still programmed to hear highly electronic music as something futuristic in sound. However, dance music has incorporated synthesized electronic beats as a key element since the landmark synthesized disco experiments of Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer in the mid 1970s. Some of the touchstones of The Beginning lie back in that era yet the Black Eyed Peas manage to still make their music sound like it points to the future. Most pop music is highly recursive repeating the successful elements of the past while building toward an unknown future. No one knows this better than will.i.am.
It is almost unfair to listeners to kick things off with the use of the Dirty Dancing love theme "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life." The song has earned a presence among pop fans well beyond its initial success due to the ongoing popularity of the movie and use of the song for weddings and anniversaries. "The Time (Dirty Bit)" will grab your attention whether you want it to or not. Two songs later and that synth intro to "Love You Long Time" definitely sounds familiar doesn't it? If you are from the UK you might hit the memory target since KC's "Give It Up" was a #1 hit for three weeks. It had much more modest success back here in the US, but the catchiness of the synth line has resulted in the song being used extensively in film and TV background music. Historically, the 1984 hit was one of the last gasps of disco in the pop mainstream. Want to hear more of the Black Eyed Peas' dance music record collection? Just listen further.
The Party Hits Its Stride
The Beginning works like a classic party album. The beat only varies gradually in intensity and tempo. This allows the songs to blend in nearly seamless fashion. Like any great party mix, the music here really hits its stride a little over halfway through. "Fashion Beats" kicks off with the sound of Chic's late 70s disco. "My Forbidden Lover" is sampled here, but the song has even more historical references in store. About 90 seconds in Fergie starts sounding like she walked out of Blondie's disco classic "Rapture" complete with French and a rap. Then just before an a capella break by Fergie we hear the echoes of Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk style electronic blips. Don't stop here though.
Black Eyed Peas boost the beat as they request "Don't Stop the Party." Like we would consider ending things now? will.i.am starts talking about futurism here again and sure enough we find ourselves in the middle of a futuristic sounding trance break. The party reaches its peak about five minutes into the song, and it is exhilarating. With the next track everything breaks down into a heavy old school rap beat with some of the most amusingly nonsensical Black Eyed Peas lyrics yet. The group does know how to throw a musical party.
Top Tracks on 'The Beginning'
- "Love You Long Time"
- "Fashion Beats"
- "Don't Stop the Party"
- "Do It Like This"
Black Eyed Peas Move Forward On the Foundation Of the Past
The Black Eyed Peas are not the group to look to for intellectual lyrical excursions or self-conscious reverence in their treatment of musical styles. Instead, the dance, hip hop, and party music past is mined for rugged stones to build a foundation to help take the Black Eyed Peas brand of pop into the future, a future of peace. One of the most fascinating tracks here is the closing "Play It Loud" where the group takes a more serious moment to pull in musical echoes of U2 along with the names of John Lennon and Bob Marley in the lyrics, and their ever present dance beat, to help them deliver the message, "Drop all your guns, drop all that bullsh*t." Instead they suggest pledging allegiance, "To rhythm and sound." Is that a bad way to move into the future?