The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am has kept plenty busy over the past few years, crafting diverse tracks for everyone from Justin Timberlake to Talib Kweli to Sergio Mendes. Given that some of the rapper-producer’s least profound work — bubblegum cheer-hop like Fergie’s ”Fergalicious” and the Peas’ own ”My Humps” — has also been his best-received, it’s no shocker that he would choose a similar direction for his own project. Indeed, the only surprise on Songs About Girls, will.i.am’s first solo effort on a major label, is that he has miraculously managed to transport us to an even flimsier dimension of vulgar dance music.
Certainly, pop these days isn’t ringing with complex examinations of romantic relationships. Still, by naming the album as he did, will.i.am draws attention to the fact that the ”girls” of whom he sings are, in his most generous estimation, gossamer ideals to be pined over after he breaks their hearts in unspecified ways. Primarily, though, they are steady-shimmying, modern-day Hottentot Venuses in need of badonkadonk appraisal. You may already be familiar with the ghastly, repetitive first single, ”I Got It From My Mama,” a shrill ode to ”beautiful buns” during which will.i.am offers this sensitive insight: ”If her mother real ugly, I guarantee she gone be ugly like her momma.” Songs also includes such blunt objects as ”The Donque Song,” another ass dedication, and the confused stripper anthem ”Get Your Money.” On the latter, will.i.am professes a liberal tolerance for the ”private dancer, bubble twister,” only to quickly add, ”Just be glad she ain’t your sister.”
These cuts are crude and unimaginative, and that’s not simple prudishness talking. In this post-Sir Mix-A-Lot age, even the most proper among us love a fun, edgy booty song. But will.i.am neuters that guilty pleasure with stiff drum programming, robotic guitar bursts, and vaporous synth melodies. (With so many house-music beats and watered-down electro elements, it’s quite possible the guy was aiming for retro and wound up dated.) When he’s not crooning come-ons in his merely adequate voice, will.i.am’s near nursery rhymes resound with clichés and tossed-off nonsense — even on ”S.O.S. (Mother Earth),” a sappy dirge to environmental issues clearly intended to be the one deep song. ”When an Eskimo gets bit by a mosquito,” insists will.i.am, ”somebody in Miami will get swept by a tsunami.” Sadly, that says as much about girls as anything else on this half-assed exercise in superficiality. C-
Download This: Preview ”Heartbreaker” and more from the new CD on will.i.am’s MySpace