Courtesy: Epic Records/will.i.am music group
Black Eyed Peas released its latest album Translation Friday, and sadly, the news is not good. The trio’s eighth full-length studio recording, it is the group’s lowest point to date. That is due in large part to the record’s musical content. This will be discussed shortly, as it is both good and bad. The lyrical content (or relative lack thereof) plays into that, too. The album’s sequencing rounds out the most important of its elements. It is perhaps the only real positive of the whole presentation. Of course even that is a bit of a stretch. Each noted item is important in its own weird way to the whole of this album. All things considered, they make this album the absolute lowest point for Black Eyed Peas.
Black Eyed Peas latest album Translation is the least memorable of any of its studio recordings to date. Coming less than two years after the trio — will.i.am, apl.de.ap, and Taboo – released its seventh album Masters of the Sun Vol. 1, the 17-song record (this version came from Target with two remixes of the album’s song ‘Ritmo’), it is the group’s lowest point so far in its life. That is due in large part to its musical arrangements. Whereas the arrangements featured in Masters of the Sun Vol. 1 took the group back to its high points in its 1998 debut album Behind The Front and its 2000 follow-up Bridging The Gap, this record is more akin to the sounds produced in its more mainstream records Elephunk, Monkey Business and The E.N.D. and its follow-up The Beginning. Even taking the sound featured in those records into consideration here, this record’s arrangements does bear some semblance to said works, but in the case of this record, the arrangements are even more poppy than ever. Rather than actually having any real substance per se, this record’s arrangements are mostly just that, instrumentals that are more a fit for clubs than for radio. The music from the group’s other mainstream pop records meanwhile at least gave those works something onto which Top 40 pop programmers could latch. Music, such as that which is used in clubs does not necessarily require a lot of thought, but rather a steady beat and some keyboards and electronics. It does not even require any real lyrical content. This is another problem with this record.
Considering that Translation is composed largely of instrumentals that are more useful in the clubs than on the radio or even in people’s stereos (or computers, smartphones, what have you), it leaves little use for lyrical content. Given, there is some lyrical content here, but it is limited. Most of the record’s lyrical content is anything but impacting or even memorable. Case in point is the presentation of ‘Mabuti.’ This song presents another infectious club groove, and its lyrical content goes right along with that arrangement. It finds the group going on about seeing a woman dancing, going so far as to tell the woman, “I like the way you shake it/baby, if you hot/Why don’t you go ahead, get naked/Wiggle it/I like the way you jiggle.” That is not exactly the most enlightening or engaging lyrical content.
While the record’s lyrical content is largely less than hard-hitting or even memorable, there is at least a small amount of content that does help the record. The only truly notable lyrical moment in this LP comes in the standard album’s closer, ‘News Today.’ The light, guitar-driven song addresses everything going on in the world today, from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak to the political issues caused by Donald Trump. The song notes in its lead verse, “Did you watch the news today/Did you hear what they say/1,000 more people passed away/Ah, naw/Somebody tell me what’s going on/New York, New York/Big city of dreams/There’s a nightmare going down from the brox to Queens and everywhere in-between/We’re fighting something we can’t even see/There’s n invisible enemy/Just knocked out Italy/Keep the mask on/’Cause if you caught/They gonna look at you like you did a felony/And in theory can’t hug nobody/Not until we find a remedy/So we pray for Spain, France and the U.K./China and U.S.A./I pray we gonna be okay/Pray for the grandmas and grandpas/So they can live to see another day.” From there, the song mentions people believing “the news is fake” and being told to “inject yourself with bleach.” In other words, there is even mention of the damage that Donald Trump has done to the nation and world. It is really the album’s only really thoughtful lyrical content. To a point, one can compare this song to Buffalo Springfield’s timeless song, ‘For What It’s Worth’ both in terms of its musical arrangement and its lyrical content. It’s only one of the rare moments that stands out in this record because of its lyrical content. The only other rare moment that stands out because of its lyrics comes late in the record’s run in the form of ‘Todo Bueno.’
Will.i.am stresses in ‘Todo Bueno’ that “even when I’m going through some really hard changes/You gonna hear me explainin’/That the life’s amazing, oh yeah/So don’t stop me if I’m dreaming/’cause I’m just over here, living my dream/I’m gonna keep believin’/even if nobody believes me/Keep collaborating ‘till my life is supreme.” This is really the only lyrical content in this record that can be considered impacting at all. That is because it is positive and uplifting. The other rare lyrical content is not exactly in-depth or thought provoking. This is important to note because as with the group’s first two records and this record’s predecessor, the lyrics in said albums actually had substance. They had a lot of social commentary and thoughtful insights in each case. That just is not the case here. Simply put, the lyrical content, or lack thereof here makes the record that much more of a step down for this once great act. It’s like lyrically, the group has just completely phoned it in here, which is so disappointing.
For all of the negatives that weigh down Translation, it does have at least one positive – its sequencing. From the beginning to the end of its 64-minute run time (again, this Target-bought copy is longer than the standard edition because it has two remixes), the record does manage to at least keep the energy flowing from one song to the next. Every arrangement featured in this album is a mid-tempo, 2/4 time composition with its own keyboard-driven arrangement that rests on its own merits even despite the steady beat. In other words, while the arrangements are stylistically similar from one to the next, the overall sound does change albeit slightly at best while the energy in each arrangement remains stable throughout. The result is an overall album that will appeal to fans of club-style songs, but few others. To that end, audiences in general will find this album worth at least maybe one listen, but sadly not much more than that.
Black Eyed Peas’ eighth full-length studio recording Translation is a troublesome release for a trio that so many years ago was such a notable group. It is a work that shows how far the group has fallen from its early days when it was actually a noteworthy hip-hop group. In place of the once memorable social commentaries of its first two albums are songs that lyrically are mostly simple, dumbed down works about dancing. Yes, there is a tiny amount of more thoughtful material here, but that content is rare. The record’s musical content is just as simple in comparison to the group’s earliest works and even the work that it produced in its other, more mainstream records. These arrangements are, from one to the next, largely similar, steady 2/4 time works that bear little variance from one to the next. The only positive here is the record’s sequencing, which keeps the energy in those simple dance-style arrangements stable from one to the next. There just is not a lot here to make this record memorable or even notable. To that end, it is the band’s lowest point so far and is worth hearing one time at the most. The album is available now. More information on Black Eyed Peas’ new album is available along with all of the group’s latest news at:
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