Album review: will.i.am, #willpower (Interscope)

Album of the Week: The populist spirit is willing but the mind is weak

Andy Gill
Thursday 18 April 2013 15:41
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#willpower: The populist spirit is willing but the mind is weak
#willpower: The populist spirit is willing but the mind is weak

“Don't forget to dream wonderful things to add to life,” advises will.i.am on “Good Morning”, the opening track to #willpower. The album represents the fulfilment of one of his own dreams, when as a child he came up with the title – oddly, years before Twitter made the hashtag almost as ubiquitous as will.i.am himself.

That ubiquity is no accident: #willpower is stuffed with sounds that, while in no sense as cutting-edge as he likes to make out, crest the wave of the popular, from the Guetta-esque stomp of the Swedish House Mafia on “This Is Love” to the synth motifs that decorate tracks such as the Justin Bieber duet “#thatPOWER” and the Britney Spears duet “Scream & Shout”, a pulsing club anthem designed to make the body work with as little interruption as possible from the mind. Further evidence of will's populist imperatives come in the form of the explicit demands for crowd responses in “Hello” and “This Is Love”, and the keyboard hook to the feelgood anthem of progress and partying, “Great Times Are Coming”, which is equal parts Pachelbel, Coldplay and Paul McCartney. But when he tries something he considers “fresh shit”, as with the skeletal synth and beat of “Freshy”, he doesn't seem to know how to stop it becoming an irritating affectation.

Likewise, the social conscience intended to counterbalance the brazen party cuts rarely gets beyond the crassest of clichés, from the litany of tribulations in “The World Is Crazy” to the familiar starstruck-runaway theme of “Far Away from Home”. Ironically, the wittiest stratagem is that employed on “Ghetto Ghetto”, where rapping toddler Baby Kaely is made to explain the root cause of youth crime and conflict as, “I want to be what's on TV/ And if that's wrong please don't blame me.” It's cute and cynical at the same time, but in a less distressing manner than the invitation to “Shoot that love bullet/ Such a pretty bullet/ Go ahead and pull it” in “Love Bullets”, surely the least responsible romantic metaphor ever devised.

Download: Ghetto Ghetto; Great Times Are Coming; Hello; Scream & Shout

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