From credible underground hip-hop act to chart-topping pop stars singing songs about "lovely lady lumps," Black Eyed Peas have done plenty of morphing in their 14 years together.
For their fifth album, the quartet - Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, Fergie and Taboo - are making more changes, putting on their dancing shoes and leaving the hip-pop behind in a bid to create a concept album of, in their words, "futuristic electric static funk".
They've failed. The END - it stands for The Energy Never Dies - is a misfired attempt at a Madonna-style reinvention using big drums, autotuned vocals, keyboard synths and sonic squelches. It steals repeatedly from better artists like Kanye West, Daft Punk, Timbaland, MIA and, er, Cyndi Lauper.
The problem isn't their ambition - it's the delivery. There's not an ounce of irony among any of the album's 16 tracks, and songs like first single Boom Boom Pow - with the lyrics, "I'm so 2008, You're so 2000-and-late" - are delivered with such fervent sincerity you can't help but laugh at them.
At least My Humps was a joke, and everyone knew it. Here, repeated quests to "rock that body" and "party all the time" sound more like dated 80s act Snap. When they sit side-by-side with lines like, "I'm on a party like Ibiza, we don't need no pizza," all the fun the band seems to be having just doesn't translate.
It gets worse, with bad ballad Meet Me Halfway showing up Fergie's ridiculously under-par vocal talents. I Gotta Feeling has the worst lyrics since Flo Rida's Right Round, Party All the Time is rebellious pop of the worst kind and Rockin to the Beat's heavily distorted chorus is pretty much unlistenable.
Then there's Electric City, which includes Fergie's laughable attempts at pulling off a reggae-tinged baile funk chorus that goes, "Hit them with the rude boy sound." Yes, really.
Let's hope this is The END, because it's as bad as being stuck at an '80s-themed party with bad dancing, neon lights, weak punch and people you don't like. Can we leave now?
* What do you think of The END? Post your comments below.
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