Unfortunately for those anticipating The Black Eyed Peas’ demise from the title of their fifth album, The E.N.D., the acronym actually stands for “The Energy Never Dies.” Frontman Will.i.am envisioned a work that was less a static album than a template to be refashioned by other artists. “When it comes out, there’ll be 12 songs on it,” he explained to Billboard. “But the next day there could be 100 songs, 50 sketches, 1,000 blogs ...”
And so it’s clear the group, known for dumbing down musical trends that were pretty dumb to begin with, is not going away anytime soon, especially with its first single, “Boom Boom Pow,” lodged atop the charts. But though the lyrics are as vapid as ever (typical refrain: “Fill up my cup/Mazel tov/Look at her dancing/Just take it off!”), musically, the album goes in interesting directions. Deviating from both the roots-based hip-hop the Peas were known for pre-Fergie and the hook-focused pop-rap of recent years, The E.N.D. experiments with rhythm and song structure.
Employing house, electro and dancehall beats, it seems designed less for teeny-bop fans than for discotheque audiences around the world. Sometimes it works (“Imma Be,” “One Tribe”) but more often it doesn’t, such as on “I Gotta Feeling” and the cringe-worthy “Electric City,” in which Fergie does her best Sean Paul impression. All told, it’s an admirable attempt to do something different, but just as hard to listen to as the group’s earlier works.