May 19, 2010
Last year I toured with the Black Eyed Peas on their Japan/Australia run. It was dubbed The E.N.D. – World Tour, which was appropriate. The production is a dazzling metaphor for the end of civilization.
As I get older, I frequently find myself forced to compromise my principles—-whether ethical or aesthetic—-for a higher standard of living. My job is to fly lights, sound, and video—-not to judge the artists. My crew chief said this a dozen times. After all, I was paid well, enjoyed fine meals and plush hotel rooms, had fantastic adventures on the streets of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Melbourne, and Auckland, and I only had to wear a BEP t-shirt one time—-when my laundry was dirty. Still, the damage is evident.
I began to absorb the insidious beats and lobotomizing lyrics through constant exposure. To make matters worse, I was born with a hyperactive cerebral sequencer that will sample and loop any catchy tune within a 100’ radius. You hear about nuclear lab technicians who glow green when the lights go out. Well, for months after I came home you could hear “Boom Boom Pow” playing from my head in a quiet room. Just another occupational hazard.
The other roadies exhibited similar symptoms of BEP Syndrome. We made a psychological game of it. (Example: A laser tech walks by, and I croon: “I gotta feeling…” For the next hour, he will be plagued by the song. The only known cure is cranial bludgeoning.)
Of course, the crew had mixed reactions to The E.N.D. of civilization, ranging from head-bobbing compliance to blank-faced indifference. Plenty of them detested the sound, coping in the same fashion that a grease-saturated McDonald’s worker does: with a stoic smile and a puff of smoke. Unfortunately, I never developed the perceptual filters necessary to block out the soundtrack—-and I may never recover.
The show opens with “Let’s Get Retarded In Here.” Seriously. That’s the hook. It was like Idiocracy: the Musical, with the crowd as extras. But hey, at least these guys are honest about their agenda. Having seen the children of the world transformed into a tone-deaf choir of space monkeys dancing for a Spring Break webcam—-I can assure you that the plan is working.
So what do you do once you have subdued the youth’s brain activity? You stoke their hormones with humps and lady lumps. Maintaining a professional suspension of judgement was difficult as rows of preteen girls joined Fergie for the refrain:
Whatchoo gon’ do with all that junk,
All that junk inside that trunk?
Imma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump[…]
My hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps,
Check it out…
It was a weird scene—these tarted-up Australian girls on fire with precocious puberty, singing about their “lovely lady lumps” while parents stared ahead with TV eyes. Perhaps my horror is an indication of archaic attitudes toward sexual artifice. After all, I come from the last Western generation for whom pornography was a mysterious and coveted commodity. Maybe I’m just not hip to the future.
This generation is growing up fast—-one casual click away from hardcore butt-pumping. Perhaps for them, Fergie’s high-priced humps are just innocuous objects of fascination. Still, it doesn’t take a total square to interpret “I wonder if I take you home/ Would you still be in love, baby… in love, baby…” as a foreboding sing-a-long for single mothers. The consequences of a free-lovin’ frenzy have never been a concern for the hype machine. It’s a new age of the child, and Slut-tastic Pop is a haphazard expression of the Sexual Revolution.
The Peas are all about revolution. Take “Now Generation” for instance. As it happened, I had a show cue during this song—-every night. Try to imagine Veruca Salt inciting a cyborg insurrection from her strip pole with Liber Legis tucked into her thong. “Now Generation” would be her manifesto. It opens with a clip from Obama’s speech after the New Hampshire Primaries—-“Yes we can!”—- and features the Peas on podiums dressed in cyber-politician garb, proclaiming:
MySpace in your space,
Facebook is a new place.
I be out in cyberspace.
Google is my professor,
Checkin’ my account,
Loggin’ in and loggin’ out,
I want it now[…]
We are the Now Generation!
We are the Generation Now!
Footage of Civil Rights marches and war protests play on the massive video walls. This segues into a flashing sequence of lyric-specific logos—-Apple, MySpace, Google, Wikipedia—-like Reese’s Pieces falling one-by-one into ET’s slimy little hand.
will.i.am counsels us to “Ask Barack who brought the hope.” But perhaps we should ask him for another stimulus package to pay for more bling bling, iDooDad crazes, and BEP merch. And while he’s at it, we could use help on the bar tabs as well.
The show finishes with a mash-up of “Party All The Time/Outta My Head/I Gotta Feeling.” The band saunters around the confetti-strewn stage with massive champagne props in hand, musing:
If we could party all night
And sleep all day
And throw all of my problems away,
My life would be eaaasy…
Tonight’s the night,
Let’s live it up,
I got my money,
Let’s spend it up…
If you put on your Rowdy Roddy sunglasses, you’ll see their skull-like faces croaking: Obey – Reproduce – Log-on – Consume – Remix.
It must be said that every personal interaction I had with the Peas was pleasant—-so far as pop stars go. They were always courteous and professional—-all smiles and warm handshakes-that-feed. They even welcomed me into their dance circle at a Tokyo club one night, cheering me on when I broke into my Chex Mix boogie—-a charitable gesture indeed.
On the other chip-implanted hand, they nearly destroyed my hope for humanity. At times, I fear that The E.N.D. is a vision of the future. Imagine a human face licking the sole of a True Religion Brand boot—-forever.
I chose to leave the Peas in Las Vegas, as they kicked off their recent U.S. leg of the tour. I felt like a lumberjack in the Redwood Forests—-great money, but you’re getting paid to decimate an irreplaceable resource. In my case, it was the higher cortical functioning of every youthful brain behind the barricade. Where the lumberjack gazes out over fields of enormous tree-stumps, I saw arenas packed to the nosebleeds with dancing brain stems. So I retreated as a conscientious objector. This has provided a modicum of inner peace.
Still, there is one riddle that I just can’t unravel. Why would will.i.am gloat over “beats so large, I be steppin’ on Leprechauns” while he’s “shittin’ on y’all with the BOOM BOOM”? I mean, wouldn’t medium, or even small, beats be sufficient to crush these micro-anthropic creatures?