Simian Disco

CD Review: Monkey Business (A&M) by The Black Eyed Peas

Are these peas ripe for shelling? The 'Peas hit on a winning formula for mainstream success with their third album, 2003's chart-slaying Elephunk:  they recruited sexy crooner Fergie, and ditched the ponderous rhymes for dance-floor-fillers and A-list collaborations. And thus became hip-hop's brightest popsters, bolstered by a collaboration with Justin Timberlake called Where is the Love?  that became a worldwide overkill hit.  This is their follow-up (the band's fourth album). Can they maintain the scampering pace set by their last jungle animal-monikered long-player?

So, does this musical monkey swing? Yeah, baby! From the album's opener the frenetic,  Pulp Fiction-sampling Pump It  it's clear that Monkey Business is another tightly produced affair with its sights set on both dancefloors and pop charts. As such, it's a ready-made party-mix of phat beats, Latin rhythms, electro-funk and hip-pop, with commercial viability in zoo-sized shitloads.  Don't Lie, for instance, is insanely catchy;  while the band milk their flesh-baring, ex-meth-head chanteuse for all her pole-trained, tremulous rump is worth, in a lascivious yet still oddly  nursery rhyme-like ditty,  My Humps.  The latter track,  name and all,  is uniquely irritating, by the way, and bound for extensive overplay by boneheaded radio jockeys so prepare to get sick to death of the 'Peas when that number drops. Elsewhere, A-list collaborations stack up to varying effect. The cut with Justin Timberlake, My Style,  is middling;  then Sting manages to go one worse with the egregious Union.  Far more successfully, the group manages to roll out the Hardest-Working-Geriatric-in-Showbiz, the Godfather of Soul himself, to sardonically mock techno music to a platoon of Motown-aping horns, in the irresistible funk shuffle They Don’t Want Music

Rap it up for us: Their shameless grasps at pop-tastic mass appeal may be transparent embodied by a feelgood live show, which is a theatrical masterclass in tightly choreographed showmanship. And, in the normal run of things, this should earn them the mother of all backlashes. But, frankly, screw the naysayers and their urban authenticity myth: The Black Eyed Peas exuberantly prove that violence and nihilism aren’t always hip-hop's biggest selling points. For this, they are truly monkey magicians. Someone throw that band a banana.

Critical Quibbling

“A succession of cotton-candy raps about chicks, partying and partying with chicks, broken up by choruses destined to evaporate outside a shindig's perimeter.” -- Entertainment Weekly

“A madcap musical journey that mixes the funkiest sound of the mainstream with something a little more eclectic on the side” – Indie London

-- Published by In Residence, 2005


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