Being Woke Is Still Not a Genre of Music

Say what you want about Black Eyed Peas. Group mastermind Will.I.Am is incredibly adept at noticing musical shifts and adapting his band to reflect the general temperature of pop music. Remember when BEP worked the festival circuit and made vaguely conscious songs like “Fallin Up”? They were carving out a nice lane as the rap group for people who loved jam bands, and then they added Fergie and became — credit where it’s due — a massively successful pop group. Presumably that could have gone on forever. Centuries from now, long after society is eradicated, the Will.I.Am hologram would roam the rubble of forgotten cities, preaching utopian ideas about partying through song.

Instead, Fergie left the group, the band rediscovered their conscience and decided to revisit the politically pointed work they started out with. There’s nothing inherently wrong here: Things are bad, and a message delivered via music can reach a lot of people; the only thing is, it helps to actually have a message.

Meet the new Black Eyed Peas, same as the old Black Eyed Peas except now they’re rapping about what’s wrong with the country over multi-part instrumentals instead of warm jazz rap. If only there were more nuance here than, “They don’t teach kids nothing / All they know is iPads, sugar in their muffin.” Which is a lyric that will surely resonate with people who believe that kids are not taught anything, that they use iPads too much, and that they need to stop eating those Costco-size chocolate chip muffins that are definitely just dense cookies without nutritional substance even though they’re sold as breakfast food. Which — sure. True. We all should eat less of those muffins.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make political music, but assuming you’re doing the right thing, or that what you’re making is good because the message rings true, means you end up with little more than a catalogue of platitudes.