Album: Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning (Interscope)

Hands in the air if you care to join the joyless party

There's something fiendish about Black Eyed Peas.

I first became aware of it when I noticed that the intro to "I Gotta Feeling" was calculatedly recorded at the perfect pitch and frequency to work as a ringtone on a mobile phone. And, once you've noticed it, you can't notice anything else about them: a relentlessly efficient stadium-pop hit machine into which market data can be fed, and the optimum product pops out the other end.

Consider current single "The Time (Dirty Bit)", which blatantly resulted from the question "How can we make a song that women on hen nights will love to sing along to when they're drunk?" A few whirrs and bleeps later, the answer comes: you take Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "I've Had the Time of My Life", chop it up, stick an electro beat underneath and watch the megabucks roll in. The resulting monster even nicks the "swagger/Jagger" rhyme from Kesha's "Tik Tok" and the "mirror mirror on the wall" bit from De La Soul's "Buddy", a policy of shameless thievery which continues on to track two "Light Up the Night" which is built on a sustained synth chord from Montell Jordan's "This is How We Do It".

Lord knows I'm no opponent of sampling, but it's only honourable to add something new to the musical gene pool while you're at it. Similarly, "Love You Long Time" sees will.i.am laying that Full Metal Jacket quote over KC and the Sunshine Band's "Give it Up", and so it continues.

Another three whole tracks on The Beginning, the follow-up to the world-conquering The E.N.D. (see what they did there?) pass by unnoticed, until they're dipping into a greater artist's pockets once again: "Fashion Beats" samples Chic's "My Forbidden Lover". Did Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson die for this? Elsewhere, they namecheck "Mr Roboto" by Styx and borrow from "Rockafeller Skank" by Fatboy Slim.

When they resort to plagiarising themselves ("I got intuition, tonight's gonna be a good good exhibition..."), pop truly starts to eat itself.

The sixth BEP album is typified by the unremitting thud of "Don't Stop the Party" (six minutes long, feels like 60). It's as though they're gripped by a joyless determination to create The Greatest Party Album in the World... Ever! That never-ending autotune, those rhythmic volume-surges, cannot be stopped. It's like having an aerobics lesson from a Dalek.

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