Black Eyed Peas — “I Gotta Feeling”

Released: 6.16.09

Peak: #1

I’ve never seen the percentage in hating the Black Eyed Peas. They’re never bullying or misogynist, and their closest stray toward the sententious, “Where Is the Love?,” was bold enough to remind us that the C.I.A. is a terrorist org. Far be it from me to guess what roils foes who’ve been markedly unable to articulate their beef, but criticisms seem to boil down to the fact that the group is uncool — either tagged “corny,” in rap-snob parlance, or with the old anti-pop snub “plastic.” Me, I like uncool people. Some of my best friends are uncool. Including you maybe.

But though I’ve supported will.i.am’s decision to exuberantly sell out ever since he recognized the error of his earnest, backpacker youth, I can’t say he’s mostly done me proud. “Let’s Get Retarded” was this Roxanne Shante fan’s coulda-been jam before marketing softened it to “Let’s Get It Started” for sports arenas in need of a “Rock and Roll Pt. 3.” And though plenty of pop is more deserving of the scorn heaped upon “My Humps,” the ick factor of “lovely lady lumps” is hard to listen past.

With “I Gotta Feeling,” though, the quartet finally surrendered to sheer sensation, here embodied by the equally despised David Guetta.  The track accretes so craftily — staccato guitar establishes that mood of early evening anticipation, high-end synth adds that wistful edge, one-finger bass tugs us forward until the long-delayed backbeat propels the works upward and outward — that it’s easy to overlook that this dance hit is wholly drumless maybe a full third of its run time, And Fergie finally comes into her brassy own, belting at her most ovaries-out one moment, interjecting “smash it!” like a demented Bowery boy the next. For a few minutes, at least, the club, now the dominant setting for rap and pop, is no longer a drab, noisy site for wrangling temporary mates, but a place to cut loose.

The Peas topped the Billboard singles chart for exactly half a year: Prior to “I Gotta Feeling”‘s fourteen-week residence, the silly “Boom Boom Pow,” which goofed on club music’s futurism and hip-hop’s empty boasts while jacking the thrill of each, had already rested on top for twelve weeks. It was a success story so unnerving to some critics that their denial compelled them to wax with desperate thoughtfulness over the cultural importance of Lady Gaga. The Peas, you see, raise no chewy gender issues, nor is there the slightest bit of transgression about them — they simply plug into our trivial, disposable culture with an awkward eagerness to please that was once pop’s point. I guess there will always be folks less willing to forgive the gregarious and trivial than they are the overblown and self-important. Poor things.

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