Music Schmusic: Worst Decade Ever Pt. 8  

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a…grating and painful exercise in self-flagellation.

Tonight, we explore a band that is continually one-upping itself in a sadistic effort to suck harder. A band whose truly prolific output of jaw-droppingly awful solo and collaborative efforts goes beyond the bounds reason, human decency and even the English language to stupefy you with its inanity. I feel like I’m presenting them a lifetime achievement award, and they’ve been active for less than ten years. I’m talking, of course, about the Black Eyed Peas, and their pursuit to record the worst song of the 2000s. We’re going to look at seven strong contenders, but first let’s meet the Peas themselves:, the guy from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Fergie, the chick from “Grindhouse

Taboo, the guy who played Vega in the “Street Fighter” movie

And uh, Boba Fett.

Black Eyed Peas -- Let’s Get Retarded (2003)

Topping the list of the Peas’ musical crimes against humanity is this charming song about drinking so much that people mistake you for Michael Rapaport. It all starts with one of the best outlandish boasts in hip hop: “When I bust my rhyme, you break your necks.” Ok, so my necks are intact for now, but I’m still pretty sure one of these songs is going to give me meningitis.

The other lyrical joys of this song include lines like “Let’s get cuckoo,” “Let’s get ig’nt” and “Bob your head like epilepsy.” It should be noted that of these descriptions, each presented as an example of how to dance so people think you’re retarded, not one is synonymous with “retarded.” The lyrics may as well be “Let’s get sleepy/Let’s get Cotard syndrome/Let’s get manicures in here!”

Fergie, perhaps feeling underutilized on this track, shows off her mad spelling bee skills by teaching us how to spell “retarded” at the end of the song. At least she spelled it right. More on (pun intended) this later.

Black Eyed Peas -- My Humps (2005)

Inane, repetitive lyrics? Check.

Irritating musical hook? Check.

Warped view of sexuality? Check.

Overloaded with catchphrases? Check.

The last four minutes of “Layla” tacked onto the end? Pretty close.

My god, it’s the perfect storm of crap.

You may be thinking “Oh, come on; it’s no ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ but it’s fun.” Well, consider this: One day, a research scientist may suddenly be struck with a new method for curing all known disease. He’ll be scrambling to commit the thought to paper; he pauses for a moment to collect his thoughts, and is horrified to realize that he can’t recall what was potentially the greatest discovery in human history. His “eureka” moment has been completely replaced by a new thought: “What’cha gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk?” Thanks, Black Eyed Peas; there goes the cure for lovely lady lump cancer.

Now there are a lot of bad songs about tits and ass, but most of them have the decency to not discuss them in first grade playground code. The Peas even go further, and make up their own euphemisms (more on that later, too) like “mix your milk with my cocoa puff.” Yeah, I don’t think I want to know.

Then again, when they get literal, it’s no better. “They say I’m really sexy/the boys they want to sex me.” There is only one proper way to use ‘sex’ as a verb, and that is the method for determining whether a newborn chicken is a cockerel of a pullet, before you sell them at market (don’t ask me how I know this; I’m not sure myself). I’m just going to assume that’s what Fergie is talking about here, otherwise the combination of the Peas’ awkward, childish euphemisms combined with Fergie’s creepy childish singing voice just takes this song places that no one wants to go…too late; I’m there.

Fergie -- London Bridge (2006)

Why is there an air raid siren? Why are those really tough-sounding guys so frightened? Oh, no. Fergie made a solo album. But we’all ain’t ready for this; Fergie says so herself right at the beginning. It’s been four years, and apparently we’re still not ready, because no one has a god damned clue what the chorus means. What is “my London Bridge?” Why is it falling down? Can we still try to build it up with wood and clay?

When you coin your own euphemism, the meaning has to be obvious. In 2002, Missy Elliot became the first person to throw the term “badonk-a-donk-donk” into a song. Even though the term was foreign to most of her listeners, everyone knew she was describing her ass, because the rest of the verse was talking about her ass. That’s context. When the euphemism is all there is to the song, there is no context. You just assume it’s about fucking, because...well, most of Fergie’s songs are. But Fergie and company seem to have made up a euphemism just for the hell of it. They give no indication that they even know what “London Bridge” is supposed to mean; it’s simply there to make listeners think they are hearing some forbidden carnal knowledge.

It’s time we take the mystery out of it, and give “London Bridge” a definition consistent with the overall feel of the song: “London Bridge,” is a variation of contract bridge played primarily in England, in which the loser of each hand must remove an article of clothing. It has gain popularity as a long, boring way for old people to get each other naked.

I think that image captures it.

Fergie feat. – Fergalicious (2007)

If you haven’t noticed, and Fergie share a love of the written word. Ok, so actually it appears more likely that they have a grudge against the written word. In that case, they know their enemy well, as so many of their collaborations show the tell-tale signs of an uncredited co-writer in the form of an online thesaurus. How else do you explain their use of the word “hectic,” or the fact that parts of “Get Retarded” sound like Microsoft Word’s list of recommended synonyms?

Nowhere is this more apparent than in “Fergalicious,” the second single off Fergie’s debut album “The Dutchess.” (Note the misspelling of “duchess.”) The song opens with an attempt to write the dictionary definition of a word they just made up. “Fergalicious, definition: Make them boy go loco.” Ok, so I never said it was an accurate definition.

“They want my treasures, so they get their pleasures from my photo,” Fergie continues. “Treasures” is hardly a Black Eyed Peas’ euphemism. It’s gentle and understated; plus you can tell what it means. I suspect its inclusion is the end result of Googling “What’s a classy way to say pussy hole?”

But even in a song about how Fergie is so delicious that she needed her own adjective to describe it, she is overshadowed by who spells it out for us: “T to the A to the S-T-E-Y, girl you taste to the D to the E to the L-I-C-I-O-U-S.” Ok, for starters I really didn’t want to know how Fergie tastes. I already found what she smells like, and that was entirely too much information to begin with. But what the fuck is with the spelling of tasty? It’s not like you’re spelling onomatopoeia and just forgot where the a’s and o’s go. Tasty is a fucking first grade spelling word. I can’t write the name of Fergie or without a little red line popping up under it, so you don’t even need to be a really proficient speller. But when a song has countless technicians, producers and studio executives listening to before it ever became a major single, you’d think one of them would tell them, “hey retard, you put an e in tasty.” Same goes for the designers, editors, printers and the of course ht studio executives again who signed off on “The Dutchess.”

The spelling on this album suffers from a serious systemic problem, or widespread apathy. Huh. Kind of explains the music, too. – I Got It From My Mama (2007)

Baby, where’d you get your understanding of genetics from? Apparently has never seen a Punnett square, because “if a girl’s real sexy nine times out of ten she’s sexy like her mama” is not a sound genetic hypothesis. Even if we are very generous and assume that the traits lists – sexiness, prettiness, fineness, hotness, etc. – are heritable by genes in a simple dominance pattern, the math just doesn't work. If the mother is heterozygous for each of these traits, then the best you could hope for is five times out of ten, or fifty percent. If, for instance, "sexy" is a recessive trait, then the girl's mother would have to be homozygous recessive just to have the "sexy" phenotype; the girl's father would have to be heterozygous or homozygous if she has any hope of expressing those genes, and in that case the probabilities are either fifty percent or one hundred percent. If "sexy" is a dominant trait and the mother is homozygous dominant, then the girl would (statistically) be hot ten times out of ten, and is unnecessarily hedging his bets. Of course, this is all ignoring the complications that sex-linkage, incomplete dominance, codominance, polygenic traits, epigenetic factors, and environmental factors would introduce, but even in the simplest of situations, willi.iam is completely off-base with his calculations. Ok, so the guy doesn’t know how to fucking spell, I admit we’re not dealing with Gregor Mendel here. Maybe this will help:

You see will, you don’t get all your traits from just one ancestor. You, for instance, are a little bit like Flava Flav, and a little bit like Biz Markie. That’s what makes you so special! should probably have the opportunity to demonstrate that his findings could be duplicated, but I don’t really want to hear the song again.

Black Eyed Peas -- Boom Boom Pow (2008)

If you haven’t noticed yet, the Peas are drawn to really simple rhyme schemes the way the Beastie Boys are drawn to really simple rhyme schemes. But even the guys who gave us lines like “My name is Ad-Rock and I’m a Scorpio/Don’t ask me ‘cause I just don’t know,” stuck to the English language, which is really all it takes to earn more respect than the Black Eyed Pea’s “Boom Boom Pow.” Most of the words in this song aren’t words at all. The ones that are have been arranged with other words, in such a way so as to make them essentially meaningless. So you want to get the line “I’m on that HD flat” into the song (and trust me, you do) but it doesn’t rhyme with “This beat go boom boom pow?” Change that line to “Boom boom bap.” Simple as that.

Even LFO’s “Summer Girls” isn’t that lazy. Its lines are complete non sequiturs but “Fell deep in love but now we ain’t speakin’/Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton” is made up of actual words, in an order that literate people can comprehend. Seriously, Black Eyed Peas; “y’all getting hit with the boom boom?” What the fuck?

Black Eyed Peas -- Meet Me Halfway (2009)

Until this point, I actually believed that the Peas were trying to make each song worse than the last. They were sort of like a musical Roger Corman, and as bad as some of the songs listed above were, at least part of you could feel like they were laughing with you. That changed when “Meet Me Halfway” hit the airwaves (and by ‘hit the airwaves’ I mean ‘was in that DirecTV commercial’).

This song is bad, and I don’t mean that in “My Humps” sort of way. This one is really bad. For starters, it’s based around a metaphor taken so literally as to make it nonsensical. “Meet me halfway” is a pretty familiar metaphor, and sounds like a good title for a song about compromise in relationships. Until Fergie starts giving you fucking directions.

“Can you meet me halfway?/Right up the borderline that’s where I’m going to wait for you…I can’t go any further than this.”

It’s like she’s traveling to meet a guy but her car ran out of gas or something. This song brings us back to the Black Eyed Peas’ childish lyrics, because she’s like a kid who can’t cross the street. Bizarrely enough, there’s no real indication in the song that even recognizes “meet me halfway” as a metaphor. Fergie sings her piece about how if she crosses the invisible fence in the front yard her shock collar will go off, and sings some shit about space travel.

The problem with this song is that it’s the only Black Eyed Peas it’s not trying to be dumb, and it’s still a piece of shit. There’s no juvenile hook and some of the lyrics actually try to be heartfelt; they’re trying to record a good song. But they aren’t trying very hard, so we end up with a song that not contains a bridge acknowledging that it’s time to sing the bridge, they make the bridge a pun about crossing a bridge to the other side of the song. Are things better on the other side? No, it’s exactly the fucking same.

I could go on and on. I haven't even touched on "Pump It," "Shut Up," "Beep," "Clumsy," "I Got A Feeling'" or that music video Boba Fett made, but I should probably go see a doctor about some broken necks.

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