It's official: No lyric or synth, sample or influence exists that can't be finessed into a dance anthem by Will.i.am. The world realized this when the line "Mazel Tov!" (from the Black Eyed Peas' hit "I Gotta Feeling") became the most shouted-in-unison refrain of 2009; and most recently when music fans embraced "OMG," Usher's comeback vehicle and one of this year's shrewdest pop constructions. While the title of the Peas' newest album, "The Beginning," might suggest a retreat from this everything-to-everyone agenda, it's everything but. Echoes of "Dirty Dancing," ghetto tech, Daft Punk, early Gwen Stefani and more waft throughout the set, from the Slick Rick sample that animates "Light Up the Night" to Fergie's unabashedly Debbie Harry-esque delivery over a disco strut on "Fashion Beats," a song destined for the catwalks next season. The music is expertly produced, but problems arise when Will.i.am claims the same of his wordplay. On the track "Don't Stop the Party," he chest-thumps, "Kill you with my lyricals/Call me verbal criminal." It's a silly boast for an artist who clearly focuses on beats over rhymes, and is probably better off for it.
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