Tuesday, 6 April 2010

2003 The Black Eyed Peas: Where Is The Love?

Starting out as a hardcore hip-hop act with attitude, what Black Eyed Peas gained in critical acclaim they lost in commercial appeal. By 2003 (and the introduction of female rapper Fergie), the band had moved to softened their hard edge with a glossy pop patina and 'Where Is The Love?' was the first public announcement of their new chart friendly style. And yet while there's no doubt that 'Where Is The Love?' does aim for an audience who might otherwise be turned off by hip hop (listen to its chorus back to back with that of Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn' for a clear point of reference as to how close to the mainstream this sails), little compromise has been made with the theme and lyrics that hit hard enough ("But we still got terrorists here living in the USA, the big CIA the Bloods and The Crips and the KKK") to deliver a level of intelligent anger that puts me in mind of The Disposable Heroes of Hip Hoprisy or a Gil Scott Heron. Or perhaps it would be truer to see it as a hip hop update of 'What's Going On?'. "Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying You know we've got to find a way to bring some lovin' here today": Gaye wrapped up his social commentary in a bittersweet floating tenor and resigned tone that emphasised disillusionment with a power greater than if he shouted it in your face. In a similar way, Fergie's vocal on the chorus sweetens the pill of "If love and peace is so strong, why are there pieces of love that don't belong? Nations droppin' bombs, chemical gasses filling lungs of little ones, with ongoing suffering as the youth die young" sufficiently to catch the ear of the casual listener but not in a way that dilutes or dominates the still blunt as a heartbeat rhythm, meaning the credibility of 'Where Is The Love?' is not sacrificed for the sake of commerciality. Out of all the songs of this decade, 'Where Is The Love?' will be one that endures.


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