Songs About Girls
Released by Interscope
Feelings of betrayal and contempt often litter conversations between hip-hop heads about producer and (formerly underground) Black Eyed Pea, will.i.am. Because of that I’ve decided that the only context I will provide for his latest solo endeavor, Songs About Girls—aside from mentioning that 2006’s Timeless collaboration with bossa nova legend Sergio Mendes was, mostly, impeccable—is to establish what will has proven: that he is a pop music phenomenon. And this is a pop record.
Sure, in between crooning and call-and-response hooks, he drops a few verses in his trademarked abrasive flow, but they’re neither quotable nor memorable. And, okay, so Snoop shows up for the booty-praising electro-dance “The Donque Song,” but even his recycled rhymes lack effort. That’s why contextualizing is so important, you see. Forget the raps—will.i.am is one hell of a producer.
In terms of hip-pop production, some may argue that Timbaland and will.i.am are head-to-head but Songs About Girls is a lesson in why the latter is worthy of winning that race. See, will’s got an affinity for multi-faceted production, meaning that throughout his record you’re hearing a mélange of 808-hand claps (“Heartbreaker”), well-chopped samples (i.e. Jackson 5 on “Fantastic”), and melodic arrangements replete with real (!) instruments (“Ain’t It Pretty”). He takes cues from the recent resurgence of dance-pop music (the pleasantly simplistic, disco-soul of “Impatient”), and references the mellow bits of his 2001 sans-Peas effort Lost Change (“S.O.S.”) more than the Elephunk-era and beyond—although formulaic first single “I Got It From My Mama” doesn’t allow us to completely forget. Not a contender for album of the year, it’s still capricious enough to stand out and shows enough sophistication for it to be taken seriously.
There are two facets to will.i.am; the trusty hit-maker and the innovative musician. He has consistently shown that he can generate and keep up with current trends in pop music, shifting his fan base from an army of hip-hop purists to a pack of pre-pubescent girls. At the same time his work outside of BEP (and not just the solo efforts, think: John Legend, Nas, Justin Timberlake) has been incredibly inventive and wins approval from both the pre-teens and the heads. And for those still stuck underground—I’d say they’re just haters.