Review Summary: Inexcusably unfinished and lazy, and obviously lacking in interest and passion.
Having gone through countless delays over the course of two years, and surprisingly with little to no promotion surrounding it throughout this time, will.i.am has seemed to be in absolutely no hurry at all to release his fourth solo album, and first since 2007, willpower
(stylized with a hashtag in front of it as “#willpower” most likely for the sole purpose of convenience for the inevitable trending on Twitter). Being the frontman and the major creative force behind The Black Eyed Peas, it’s only logical that the directions his solo work takes would match the styles of The Black Eyed Peas more recent work. Much like how once Fergie joined the BEP crew and the former alternative hip hop trio began working in the territory of electronic dance hits for the clubs, with polished pop production to fit, #willpower
sees a departure from the funky jazz rap of will.i.am’s debut solo album, and even the decompressed downtempo Urban R&B of his third solo album Songs About Girls
. Though The Black Eyed Peas are currently on indefinite hiatus, it appears as though that hasn’t stopped will.i.am from choosing to continue on in the same field of work that The Black Eyed Pease were thriving in, as with #willpower
, he has made a straight-up pop album.
Comparing the contemporary party pop of #willpower
to his debut Lost Change
shows just how much has drastically changed for the entrepreneur on an artistic level. While Lost Change
was self-produced and featured a handful of underground MCs on every other track, #willpower
is so ridiculously over encumbered with producers, collaborations, and featured artists, that it’s almost undignified in how near-impossible it is to hear specifically how much of what parts of his own solo album that will.i.am actually contributed to by himself. And therein lies the massive glaring flaw of #willpower
: for an album that boasts so many different names in its production credits overall and individual track credits, it’s nothing short of amazing in how it actually manages to be a completely convoluted and incohesive mess, and yet at the same time so vanilla and outright boring, and embarrassingly limited in inspiration, influence, and style.
The fact that so many people contributed to forging this album, and that it ended up being as devoid of even the simplest trace of creativity or out-of-the-box thinking as it is, is just mind-blowing. All that can really be said about #willpower
is that it’s unmistakably a pop album, plain and simple. The problem is that will.i.am really doesn’t seem remotely sure as to what type of pop music styles he wants to pursue in his solo career. He’s working in all kinds of sub-genres, such as the areas of dance-pop, electro-pop, pop-rap, and once again, R&B here, but he doesn’t come off as particularly confident or remotely strong in any of these fields that he appears to still be merely taste-testing. Being buried underneath the massive amount of collaborating artists that seem to all have identical music to offer really doesn’t help the impression that will.i.am has absolutely no recognizable identity of his own on his own solo album either.
The list of guest artists that share the tracks here is comparable to a VIP party list of celebrities that’s nowhere near organized. We have Justin Bieber, Skylar Grey, Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown, Juicy J, Britney Spears, and even Waka Flocka Flame on a deluxe edition track, all running amok across this hour-long trudge of over-production, and overdone songs that still somehow manage to have instantly forgettable hooks. These artists only further smudge the already blurred vision of what #willpower
is trying to accomplish. The best example of this is how Black Eyed Peas group-mate apl.de.ap even jumps on the aptly titled “Gettin’ Dumb” with K-pop girl group 2NE1 to create a song that’s mind-bogglingly contorted stylistically.
It could be said that will.i.am tried to go big to make this solo album a festive and over the top occasion after putting his solo discography on hold for The Black Eyed Peas’ development, but there’s an unavoidable feeling that will.i.am really just doesn’t seem to care at all. There’s pop music that’s too tepid, simple, and vacant of substance to be catchy, and then there’s pop music that’s far too bombastic, cluttered, and jumbled to be infectious, and #willpower
accomplishes the impressive feat of being both at once. All we needed on this was a guest spot from Fergie and Taboo, and we’d basically have the most confused Black Eyed Peas album to date.