By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published April 23, 2013
First and foremost, congratulations to will.i.am for actually getting the momentum to release another solo album. After “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)” — the track intended to be #willpower’s lead single — undersold, will.i.am fell off of the radar, perhaps at the risk of having a repeated incident from his Songs About Girls days.
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The all-American rapper has Britney Spears to thank, without whom, “Scream & Shout” would just be another failed solo project. The number of times Spears has offered to collaborate on another artist’s work can be tallied on one hand, so will.i.am is nothing short of extremely fortunate. Spears is one of the few artists that can chart any song simply by tacking her name on it, with very little promotional effort required.
Most of the anticipation rallied for #willpower is wasted, however. While “Scream & Shout” is proportionately fun, bizarre and contemporary, each track on this fourth studio album falls short of the entertaining lead single.
The record’s other promotional singles — the most radio-friendly songs on #willpower, by far — are mimics of existing material. The follow-up to “Scream & Shout,” “#thatPower,” is a sibling of Daft Punk’s notorious hit, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” and the third promotional single, “Fall Down” is a lovechild of Ke$ha’s “Die Young” and “Crazy Kids.” Needless to say, Dr. Luke’s production and writing continues to dwindle as he copy and pastes his work with Ke$ha onto this will.i.am track. Look closely at #willpower’s album cover, and you’ll see will.i.am regretfully reflecting on his choice of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus as the features on these two tracks.
Equally aggravating are will.i.am’s constant attempts to make insignificant artists relevant — ironic, given that he can’t even seem to solve that problem himself. For once, the rapper buckled down and hosted a few big names on his album (i.e. Britney, Chris Brown), but that doesn’t stop the flow of irrelevancy from artists like Eva Simons, Skylar Grey and Juicy J. It’s a wonder Cheryl Cole didn’t make it onto the album. Given the emphasis on production and features, will.i.am should give some thought to the title “DJ will.i.am.”
In another attempt to redefine electronic music, overproduction swallows #willpower’s other tracks. The vocals of “Far Away From Home” sound like they were recorded underwater — unfortunate, given the power of Nicole Scherzinger’s voice — and filler tracks like “Hello,” “Great Times Are Coming” and “Bang Bang” are a combination of excessive snares, kicks, wind swooshes and anticlimactic bass drops.
Some controversy stirred over the track “Let’s Go” for the theft of Arty and Matt Zo’s dance track, “Rebound,” but in will.i.am’s defense, it seems that people randomly had a bone to pick with him. Beyoncé is accredited as being music’s biggest song thief, yet nobody throws away their Queen B shrine that they use to worship all of her accomplishments.
The record summarizes music’s predominant flaw in this early part of the new decade: innovation attempts. Whether it’s will.i.am, Justin Bieber, Ke$ha or even Selena Gomez, every artist is trying to reinvent music at the expense of writing a decent album, and the music’s weak foundation collapses under messy production. Remember the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Sometimes no matter how trendy something appears, it’s just impossible to get past the fact that there’s nothing there.