Flashy production saves Peas from terrible E.N.D.

The E.N.D., short for “The Energy Never Dies,” is the Black Eyed Peas’ number one debuting fifth studio album. It takes a different direction than the group’s previous albums. It is a step in the right direction, but only a step. It does not fully commit to their new sound.

The album art implies an 80s perspective of the future. The first three songs, “Boom Boom Pow,” “Rock That Body” and “Meet Me Halfway” are really the only ones that follow this vision. There are some halfhearted attempts, but these first songs are really the essence of the album.

For having such lofty claims about being on “the next level,” the album frequently stoops to tired, non-innovating tactics. Stylized pitch correction, as made famous by T-Pain, is overused. There is nothing cool or innovative about it anymore, so for it to be used in the so-called “future flow” makes no sense.

The E.N.D. is a gapless album, and the transitions between songs are a highlight. They are a feature of will.i.am’s production, which is the only real standout element of the album. There is a wide variety in the sound design, but several things repeat throughout the album and become mundane and almost annoying. There is extensive filtering on the vocals, which distorts the voices away from human and towards robotic.

The album is really about will.i.am’s slick studio skills. The production overwhelms the lyrics and any vocal abilities present. “Missing You” exemplifies this and almost drowns out the voice.

The lyrics are only mediocre. It’s almost like they ran out of words and made do with what they had. With only a handful of Obama references, will.i.am’s political agenda isn’t pushed too hard.

“Boom Boom Pow” is all about how the Black Eyed Peas are on a completely different (higher and better) level of music-making. However, with incredibly repetitive and meaningless lyrics, and an overdose of Auto-Tune, it’s nothing America has not heard seventeen times a day for the past two years.

“Rock That Body” is a great track and is part of the album’s vision of the “retro-future.” The hook directly samples Rob Base and DJ EZ, and the song is sweet. The song is all about dancing and having a good time, which it successfully facilitates.

“Electric City” is another fun track. It offers some differentiation through syncopation, which sounds fresher in context than it actually is. However, the song is about making a song like itself, which is different and therefore interesting. Despite all it has going for it, “Electric City” dies a little with an overly explicit reference. The guest verses are also uninspired, letting the song die even more. The song survives only on its content (a rarity here) and its original beat, which does not change much as the song progresses (also a rarity here) but still makes it to the end.

“I Gotta Feeling” and “Party All the Time” are two birds of a feather. They are both faster, mid-tempo anthems. They do not say anything and get really old very quickly. By the end of the first listen, they are both off-putting. They start all well and good, but then become juvenile. They are about how great partying is. How novel. Also bad is “Out of My Head.” It has better production than many tracks, but worse lyrics. It is even more explicitly about drinking and getting drunk. Also novel. The bridge can almost make a listener skip the rest of the song right then.

The E.N.D. is mostly progressive, but often falls short. The good outweighs the bad and when it’s good, it really is. This album might not be very mainstream all the time, but there are enough mainstream elements mixed in with the innovative ones to hold on to.

This album is all about the sound and not the message, which gets lost in the production. Although the energy does die for a moment, there is enough of it to go around.

MUSIC

The Black Eyed Peas

The E.N.D.

GENRE: Action, Adventure

LABEL: Interscope

TRACK PICKS: “Boom Boom Pow,” “Rock That Body” and “Meet Me Halfway”

RELEASED: June 9, 2009

OUR TAKE: *** 1/2 (out of 5)