Black Eyed Peas ringleader will.i.am's last solo outing was 2007's Songs About Girls, a hearty collection of relaxed R&B pop that was mostly left in the shadows as his main act grew in popularity to the scope of Superbowl halftime shows and world records for most downloaded singles. #willpower sees will.i.am returning with a nonstop list of collaborators from Juicy J to Skylar Grey and over an hour of neatly polished pop-friendly tracks. Beginning the album with the lyrics "Good morning/Welcome to the thing called life" sets #willpower up for unabashed cheesiness, and the album follows suit with a plethora of mindless party jams, tossed-off rap routines, and the type of cheesy escapist fun you would expect from one of the minds that gave us "My Humps" and "Let's Get Retarded." While there's something to be said for letting go, having fun, and partying, even the constant in-the-club rhetoric seems tiredly disingenuous and phoned-in on #willpower, with will.i.am delivering lines like "I wish this night would last forever!" with all the energy of an overworked convenience store clerk on the graveyard shift eager to get home and go to sleep. His biggest hits were no more intelligent or substantial, but they got over with the type of big dumb hooks that cement themselves in the minds of every passerby. #willpower is plenty big, with banging four-on-the-floor beats pushing most songs through plastic production and the occasional dip into interesting glitchy electro or string samples, as on "Hello." Dumb is the order of the day, too, as embraced on "Gettin' Dumb," one of several half-cooked party anthems on the record, but nothing sticks with even half the force of gloriously simple Black Eyed Peas anthems like "I Gotta Feeling." Single "Scream & Shout," featuring Britney Spears reciting her verses in an inexplicably British accent, is as close as the album comes to catchy. Even bringing in big guns like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus for manufactured disposable pop moments like "#thatPOWER" and "Fall Down" doesn't save the songs from their plodding beats, piecemeal digital construction, and an overarching sense that a good portion of the album's interminable 15 tracks were written in the studio moments before they were recorded. This unfinished feeling wouldn't be a huge downfall if there were anything in between the relentless side-chained bass thumps and mindless lyrical clichés to latch onto. #willpower gets more confusing as it goes on, with stabs at worn-out Top 40 trends like the ham-fisted "Let's Go" and clumsy social commentary over an admittedly intriguing beat on "The World Is Crazy," and with irritating little-kid vocals on "Ghetto Ghetto." Lacking real excitement, verve, or even the stupid type of fun we're used to from him, will.i.am sounds remarkably like his heart isn't in it throughout the record, bored on the job even though it's his job to get the party started.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas