The corruption of will.i.am is complete. The once RnB wunderkind has well and truly left his hip-hop roots behind to become the voice of the future that he always wanted to be, alienating millions of original Black Eyed Peas fans the world over in the process and infiltrating the headspace of basically every other music fan on earth in one fell swoop. But I’m not one to Will his success. As much as I can see how what he’s doing today probably would have made 2000-era will.i.am turn over in his knit sweater and dreadlocks, it’s hard to argue with someone who can so consistently pick the sound of the time mere moments before it becomes contemporary and exploit that capacity to devastating effect. As much as will.i.am obviously has an ear for dance beats, championing the David Guetta-era before Guetta even knew it was happening, it’s more than just musical foresight which drives Will’s success; he has got the lock on guest artists, remixes, product placement, product development and release dates in a way that few others do. Will.i.am is inescapable.
‘Scream & Shout’ is the second proper single to come from will.i.am’s forthcoming fourth studio album (after last year’s Swedish-House produced ‘This Is Love‘ and a couple of underwhelming tracks that preceded it) and is already n-times more successful than his last solo effort, 2007’s ‘Songs For Girls’, which, take it from someone who had the misfortune of listening to it, was terrible. But since 2007 the Black Eyed Peas and, more pressingly, will.i.am as a brand (you know you’ve made it when your name is a URL) have come a long way. The Black Eyed Peas turned from making hilarious, funky pop to mind-numbingly obvious, electronic pop and their stocks went through the roof. Will, as Commander in Chief of the Peas squadron, has taken advantage of this rise to cash in on his cultural cachet and become something which is now more than a popstar. The closest personality I can think of is Justin Timberlake who has escaped the realm of mere celebrity to become ubiquitous.
Picking a girl to line up along side him as he takes over the world, it’d be hard for will.i.am to look past Britney Spears. As much as she is a faded shadow of what she once was, the ‘Britney bitch’ phrase that punctuates this track is just the kind of personal branding #willpower (legitimately the name of his 2013 album) is looking to establish. The faux-British accent (who is that fooling, seriously?) is likely the height of her contribution to the track but will.i.am is at a point where he’s not necessarily trading on musical quality so much as sheer popularity and populist factors. The IBM Innovative Chief of Creativity is like that tall, sporty kid in your class in high-school: it doesn’t really matter what he does, you know everyone’s gonna love him. But where others hide behind a veneer of good looks, Will is playing with weedy synth lines and lowest common denominator lyricism. And still makes it work. The video for this track says a lot about him. It’s low culture glammed up to the point where it looks like high culture, vanity project hustled until we don’t mind the ego at the centre of it all. ‘Scream & Shout’ might be mind-numbing but when numbing your mind is this easy, we’ll take it. Make that a double.
will.i.am – Scream & Shout