will.i.am: Songs About Girls

Most of the world knew nothing of the Black Eyed Peas until they recruited Fergie and released their third album, Elephunk. There is, however, a contingent of fans who are still waiting for the group to ditch the bird and return to their crunchy roots (or at least hope that will.i.am’s solo albums will make up the difference). His third solo project, Songs About Girls (Interscope) puts the final nail in the coffin for “the old will.i.am,” but those Behind the Front fans that can get over their disappointment just might find that the album is enjoyable in spite of itself.The good news: Songs About Girls is a Dance/Pop album to the core, but at no point does it get as asinine as “My Humps” or “Fergalicious.” “I Get It From My Mama” admittedly gets close, but it works better in the context of the album than alone. While the songs are mostly “about girls” as advertised, will.i.am finds surprisingly inspired ways to stretch the singular subject matter. “Heartbreaker” is appropriately uncomplicated and even better is “Impatient,” a refreshing House jam that could almost pass for Daft Punk. “Ain’t It Pretty” is similarly notable with its deep rhythms, and while will.i.am isn’t a particularly amazing rapper or singer, he knows how to take advantage of his strengths to make his vocals enjoyable in their own way.The album’s low points aren’t atrocious, but they collectively drag the project down as a whole. While only 15 tracks deep, the length and density of the individual tracks makes the entire experience seem a little too long. “She’s a Star” gets too close to territory already claimed by Justin Timberlake and the Euro-pop “Invisible” feels tedious and unnecessary compared to many of the album’s better tracks. will.i.am has speculated that (by making use of digital downloads) he plans to expand the track-list over time to potentially include dozens of songs, but at it stands now, it already needs to be trimmed to more like twelve.Even before Fergie, The Black Eyed Peas were making dance music anyway, and Songs About Girls actually stays closer to the group’s past than it might seem on the surface. Face it; the man we met in 1998 is gone and he’s not coming back. What we’re left with might not be the will.i.am that you think you want, but despite some questionable choices, the will.i.am we have deserves respect.SOUNDCHECK:will.i.am “Ain’t It Pretty”will.i.am “Heartbreaker”