It might have been recast as a request for getting things started after Wal-Mart’s political correctness took hold, but in 2003 the Black Eyed Peas were asking their fans to get retarded. Don’t think about it, don’t search for some way to turn it into irony, just bob your head like an epileptic and get your ass on the dance floor.
Getting retarded was the lesson, and two years later, the test has come. Monkey Business, the latest from hip-pop’s positivity squad, is an unashamedly radio friendly ode to partying, lady lumps and selling shitloads of records. The good vibes are there and the hooks are catchy to the point of inanity, but the depth and consciousness the Peas used to add into their songs are all but gone.
It’s no accident either. On “They Don’t Want Music,” guest vocalist James Brown barks out “they don’t want music, they don’t know how to use it, they just want boom boom boom.” He knows what he’s talking about too. After all, it was Brown who started the trend of stripping songs down to their basic grooves back in the ’70s, and it made him into a musical icon. Stripped and stupid might not make the best headphone music, but it sells at the parties.
It’s doubtful the Peas will ever reach Brown’s level of cultural clout, no matter how much boom boom they provide. Their current trajectory puts them closer to a modern day KC and the Sunshine Band than the Godfather of Soul. In other words, ten years from now you’ll probably treat them like a joke, but that won’t stop you from shaking your ass like a donkey in a paint mixer when you hear them played at the local retro night.