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Will I Am - Songs About Girls

Will I Am, Songs About Girls

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

BLACK Eyed Peas luminary Will.I.Am bids to follow in the footsteps of Fergie by releasing an album of solo material. Not because of any forthcoming split, he’s at pains to point out, but because it felt important “to try some things out on my own”.

And who can blame him. As a producer, Will.I.Am’s name crops up on countless mainstream records, so it’s high time he stepped out in front of the mic to really show us what he’s got.

The ensuing collection of 17 tracks is therefore something of a disappointment. Described as “a musically adventurous” listen that takes inspiration from a range of sounds around the world, it’s actually a fairly generic offering that doesn’t depart that radically from the Black Eyed Peas sound. At least Fergie mixed the formula up a bit more, even though her LP was similarly hit and miss.

The majority of tracks on Songs About Girls follow a rigid formula of placing smooth-flowing Will.I.Am vocals – occasionally backed by guest collaborators- against slickly produced beats, samples and a funky, dancefloor friendly vibe.

It’s acceptable if you’re not particularly demanding. But it doesn’t really feel like a stretch for the artist.

Songs like I Got It From My Mama, Spending Money, Fly Girl, Get Your Money and Impatient fade to the background all too quickly and actually feel quite lazy. There’s no risk taking whatsoever.

Songs About Girls fares better when sampling or bringing in fresh talent.

Album opener Over makes good use of ELO’s It’s Over that thrives by refusing to dwell on the original too much, while Fantastic flirts outrageous with a trademark riff from The Jackson 5’s seminal I Want You Back, without ever dropping it wholesale. It’s a teasing taster that effortlessly has you nodding along in appreciation.

Bonus track Mamma Mia is a funky workout that’s undercut by a sample from Ray Charles’ equally seminal What I’d Say, and Invisible drops some distinctly Prince-influenced backbeats (circa When Doves Cry) with a smooth set of vocals that emulate Craig David.

Cee-Lo crops up to help enliven Heartbreaker, while Snoop Dogg lends his distinct flow to The Donque Song – but whereas the former guest appearance works, the latter does not and The Donque Song is comfortably one of the most derisory tracks on the long-player – much like former single I Got It From Your Mama.

She’s A Star embraces many of Justin Timberlake’s production values and is another better offering, while Make It Funky draws on some Brazilian, samba-style background instrumentals to make things sound fresher. But both still struggle to escape easy comparisons or a been there, heard it before feel.

And SOS (Mother Nature) is a particularly disappointing lament about global warming that feels sanctimonious and preachy (especially when requesting angels). I’m all for delivering the green message but this is too direct and too easy to hit skip.

The overall impression, therefore, is that Will.I.Am’s solo effort pleases in small doses but mostly feels like a disappointment.

Download picks: Heartbreaker, She’s A Star, Fantastic, Mamma Mia, Over

Track listing:

  1. Over
  2. Heartbreaker
  3. I Got It From My Mama
  4. She’s A Star
  5. Get Your Money
  6. The Donque Song – Feat. Snoop Dogg
  7. Impatient
  8. One More Chance
  9. Invisible
  10. Fantastic
  11. Fly Girl
  12. Dynamite Interlude
  13. Ain’t it Pretty
  14. Make It Funky
  15. S.O.S (Mother Nature)
  16. Spending Money
  17. Mamma Mia [Bonus Track]