Taking a cue from The E.N.D.‘s setlist of monolithically moronic party jams, The Beginning, the Black Eyed Peas’s sixth and least original album yet, is the sound of the pigs’ blood dumped on Carrie White’s head congealing into a sticky, hardened scab of forced good times. It’s the smell of desperate ass getting gotten in the ladies’ room of a D-list club while you’re just trying to figure out how to score some toilet paper in the next stall. It’s the sight of a party bus skidded out on the shoulder of a highway, with the entire army of knockoff Manolo Blahnik-wearing sorority sisters all sourly uniting in strength to push themselves back on the path toward Good Time Island. It’s the feeling of a Christmas morning Goldschläger hangover being tended to by your screaming nieces and nephews, as each present they open introduces a new talking Sesame Street character spouting falsetto catchphrases with the regularity of a 4/4 kick. It’s the taste of the rainbow as captured by the candied skittles bearing the same name—which is to say, it maybe begins suggesting the awesomeness of fruit flavor only after you’ve cut up the tender insides of your cheeks and taste buds on a bag’s worth of pure, refined sugar pills.
Too rich for my blood? Look, I’m drinking a caffeine-free Mountain Dew as I attempt to salvage an evening spent listening to this crap, so don’t tell me I don’t have a taste for the sweet stuff. I’m even willing to grant, as I did last time around with The E.N.D., that will.i.am’s production bag of tricks, while still stunted and obvious, could be rescued with the collaboration of a few talented songwriters, instead of yet another collection of tired, insultingly obvious samples. “The Time (Dirty Bit)” shamelessly attempts to recreate Patrick Swayze lifting Jennifer Grey into the sky (as the fake Twitter Armond White said, “WITH EASE”) with an interpolation of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” which is awkwardly fused with a spare electro pulse and club-friendly chants of “I’m…having…a good…time…witchu!” It’s neither uplifting nor jovial; it’s craven and depressing.
Elsewhere, “Light Up the Night” snatches the swaggering menace of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and, sure enough, forgets all about the drive-by. “Fashion Beats” discovers Chic’s “My Forbidden Lover” a good decade after filtered disco squeezed every last drop of juice from it. “Do It Like This” is practically self-devouring, repeating the two-part structure of The E.N.D.‘s “Imma Be” to less thrilling ends. “The Situation” isn’t even perceptive enough to allow the Jersey Shore celeb to drop a verse. (You just know he’s as talented at spitting science as anyone in the BEP stable.) Toward the album’s climax, Fergie, Taboo, and apl.de.ap repeatedly insist, “This is the best one yet.” They’re telling themselves. The club is empty.