December 7th, 2007
Title: Songs About Girls
Label: Interscope Records
Catalog No.: 602517468245 (UPC)
Who is will.i.am? While he is arguably one of the most talented young producers around, legions of fans know him as the quirky and hyper frontman for the Black Eyed Peas (BEP). Well, my fan relationship with will.i.am is a little longer and more complicated that that. I became a fan of BEP when they debuted in 1998 with Behind the Front. The Los Angeles based group’s funkier sound on singles like “That’s the Joint” reminded me of earlier L.A. beatnik hip hop groups like the Pharcyde. So of course I stayed with them when they released Bridging the Gap in 1998 and I took advantage of opportunities to see them perform live. As soon as I saw them in concert, it became obvious that will.i.am was the soul of the group. That didn’t change when they brought in the singer Fergie in 2003. But that artistic shift from a more hip hop-centered sound to a more hip hop pop sound was probably my point of departure with BEP.
Despite the musical changes BEP made, I always kept an ear out for what production work will.i.am was doing because he has always had interesting musical ideas. I knew he was a great keyboardist and organist and I was a fan of his first full-length production album Lost Change. His production credits show a rare musical diversity. Just a sample of his projects includes: John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” Busta Rhymes’ “I Love My Chick,” Justin Timberlake’s “Damn Girl,” The Game’s “Compton,” and Common’s “I Want You,” as well as Santana’s “I Am Somebody” and Sergio Mendes’ “Timeless.” On top of that impressive resume he’s rumored to be working on both Whitney Houston’s and Michael Jackson’s comeback projects. Good choice.
But its 2007 and he’s released his much anticipated solo album, Songs About Girls- a really good hip hop pop album with some interesting songs mixed in. It’s not as innovative or obtuse as Lost Change (2001), and most of the songs are not quite as good as those he has produced for other artists. But listening to this album gives you a taste of the many musical sides of will.i.am. “Impatient” shows will.i.am’s electro-funk side, reminiscient of Jamiroquai during A Funk Odyssey, while “I Got it From My Mama” reminds me of some of the later BEP songs. will.i.am didn’t do all the work on the album- he collaborated with current hitmaking producer Polow da Don on “She’s A Star” and “Aint it Pretty” and with Fernando Garibay on “Donque Song” and “One More Chance.” The presence of both producers compliments what is going on during the rest of the album.
Songs About Girls has an intangible quality that unites a very diverse group of songs. Its hard to say which songs are better than others, because each one seems to conjure a different mood. But maybe that’s part of what has made will.i.am such a successful producer-he’s able to evoke many moods through the music he makes. In the end, Songs About Girls is a kaleidoscope showing different facets of what will.i.am is able to offer, and for a longtime fan like me, somehow will.i.am has made it all come together.
Posted by fredara mareva