Will.i.am breaks out of the Peas’ pod

Black Eyed Peas frontman and producer, will.i.am, releases his third solo album.

Megan Kadrmas

Quick, name the members of the Black Eyed Peas. Fergie Ö um Ö Fergie.

Who are those men backing Fergie up, anyway?

Frontman and producer, will.i.am, who created such wonderful cultural gems as “My Humps” and “Fergalicious,” wants to make his name known. No, not as that one guy who is in Fergie’s group, but as his own separate entity. He breaks out of the Black Eyed Peas and into his solo career with the release of his third solo album, “Songs About Girls.”

Although “Songs About Girls” is not technically his first solo project, will.i.am said that he considers the album to be his debut. He said that he categorizes his previous releases, in 2001 and 2003, as production compilations.

The concept of the album is pretty simply summed up in that title, but the theme is repeated over and over for 15 tracks, with little expansion.

With all the practice will.i.am has had with the Peas making booty shakin’, in da club music, it’s no surprise his album comes off sounding much like his songs with the Black Eyed Peas. They are fun, danceable, silly and, sometimes, just plain dumb.

Although will.i.am experiments with a wide range of music styles on the album, ranging from funky soul to updated ’80s dance tunes, emo-y acoustic rock to techno jazz, he only excels in a few sounds.

The majority of the tracks are unemotional, goofy and often completely awkward. All of the songs are too long, with most floating somewhere in between four and five minutes.

If will.i.am was playing with new musical ideas or spitting intricate or provocative lyrics, maybe each song wouldn’t feel so long. But he fails to commit fully to these musings, which causes some tracks to be painfully long.

Like the Peas’ lyrics – “Let’s Get Retarded,” anyone? – the lyrics are trite and sometimes outright laughable. On the album’s closing track, “S.O.S. (Mother Nature),” he tries to repeat the success of the Black Eyed Peas’ socially aware hit, “Where is the Love?” to no avail. Deadpanned, Will spits, “Get burned by volcanoes/Get blown by tornadoes/’Cause Mother Nature’s signals, is trying to warn NATO/We got a new terror threat, it’s called the weather/ More deadlier than chemical and nuclear together.”

Although Will’s solo lyrics never outdo the Peas in stupidity, the ones he does use would sound better if Fergie were singing them, mostly because listening to dumb lyrics is always easier coming from a beautiful woman.

The only place will.i.am excels on the album is when he goes for the soul. The instrumental “Impatient” is a refreshing change of pace in the middle of the album, until it stretches into its fourth minute, causing the listener to get impatient for a new track.

On “Over,” Will skillfully blends more melodic vocals with soulful church claps and a large choir to carry the chorus. The music itself is supported by a driving piano lick, with crescendos of violins, a jazzy drum and high-hat line.

The two silliest songs on the album, both odes to juicy backsides, will probably also prove to be the album’s commercial winners. The album’s first single, “I Got it from My Momma,” and the only track with a guest vocalist, “The Donque Song” featuring Snoop Dogg, are silly, shallow tracks about admiring girls with big butts.

Will.i.am followed in Fergie’s footsteps by blazing his own solo trail, and more power to him for making a name for himself. However, he missed the mark in following Fergie’s lead to create trite, vacant songs that toe a fine line, and often cross it, between having fun and being stupid. As he proves on “Songs About Girls,” he can be taken seriously when he sings from the soul. But if will.i.am really wants to break out of the Fergalicious mold, he’ll have to do more soul-searching.