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will.i.am “#willpower” – Album Review

Interscope (2013)

You get the feeling that the socially-conscious hip-hop version of will.i.am that arrived in the late 90s would have been ashamed if he saw what he was to become just a decade later. Not content with dragging The Black Eyed Peas down to the lowest common denominator level with a string of mindless ‘fun in the club’ anthems, the 38-year-old is also now inflicting a second wave of trash-pop with his fourth solo record, #willpower.

The first half of the album is quite simply some of the worst music you’ll hear all year. Seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that the David Guetta sound reached saturation point around 18 months ago, The Voice UK coach has continued to fall back on the same kind of squeaky trancey synths and repetitive four-to-the-floor beats that defined the last BEP record with depressingly moronic results.

“Hello,” “Let’s Go” and “Gettin’ Dumb” are all virtually interchangeable with each other, Britney Spears collaboration “Scream & Shout” sounds more like a ringtone than a Billboard Top 3 hit, while considering Justin Bieber’s recent tabloid troubles, the self-aggrandising electro-pop of “#thatPower” doesn’t exactly seem like a wise career move.

But even when will.i.am does occasionally remember his hip-hop roots, the results are just as horrid. “Geekin’” is nothing more than a series of crass and charmless brags about how much money he earns, while “Freshy” borders on the misogynistic with its equally materialistic glamorisation of the pimp lifestyle.

The latter part of #willpower at least possess some semblance of creativity, with both “The World Is Crazy” and “Ghetto Ghetto” tackling more serious issues of crime and social deprivation. Meanwhile, Skylar Grey and Nicole Scherzinger provide a much-needed sense of class on the dubstep-tinged “Love Bullets” and driving synth-pop of “Far Away From Home”, respectively.

But by then it’s too little, too late, and in the end, #willpower leaves you with the sense that will.i.am is now far more interested in taking the money and running than producing anything remotely worthwhile.

1.5 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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