will.i.am Talks "This Is Love" and What's Ahead on "#willpower"
Tue, 19 Jun 2012 13:35:48
will.i.am is always about ten steps ahead of everyone else.
That's what makes him so important to modern pop music. With his brand new single "This Is Love" [Featuring Eva Simons], he's leading the pack once more. The song glides from an elegantly ethereal piano melody into an infectious and resounding refrain that could set off absolutely any club. Bringing together EDM, hip hop, and pop, it's everything a hit should be; it's quintessential will.i.am.
In some ways, with his forthcoming new album #willpower, will.i.am is picking up where he left off on The Black Eyed Peas' mega hit The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies). At the same time, he's breaking new ground altogether, and that's what's going to make this album a classic in its own right.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, will.i.am discusses "This Is Love" and what lies ahead for #willpower.
You juxtapose this piano buildup and a big pop hook on "This Is Love". Was that balance important?
Yeah, I'm going to do a piano-pella version of the song that's only piano and vocals for beat makers and other people to have fun with. Sharing is what it's all about. I constructed so it can be manipulated. We wanted to leave that simple so everybody who makes beats on the computer can have fun with it. Collaboration is important to me. A lot of the hooks out there are crowded. You can't share them. They're finished thoughts. "This is Love" is a social song. That's what it means. In this day and age of connectivity, what is the song equivalent of that social concept? It'd be "This Is Love".
Is that the idea lyrically?
I'm being honest with you. I struggled with how to approach "This Is Love". It's like, "Should I get all deep and talk about hugging motherfuckers? [Laughs] Should I Kum Ba Ya them? Is this a Kum Ba Ya moment? This is love, community, connectivity and one-ness. Should I do all that?" If there's one thing in the world that means love outside of the love I have for my mom, what is it? It'd be music. Music is the embodiment of the concept love. That's what I talk about in the song. This is love for the melody, notes on the sheets. Music is the execution of a harmony. For example, if I'm a "C sharp" note and you're a "G sharp", we have to bring "F" in to make us vibrate right. If I was "D" and you were "D sharp", I have to throw a fucking "C" in there with a "G" because that's the only way they vibrate. If you play "D" and "D sharp" at the same time, they rub. In order to make those frequencies vibrate harmoniously, you need a "C" and a "G". I wish politics could behave that way. To ease turmoil, you have to bring different concepts and vibrations into the mix to ease things out. Right now in politics, it's not love. Instead of getting all deep and metaphysical on that ass, I wanted to simplify everything and talk about music. That's the reason why I chose the subject matter, but it took a long time to figure out why.
Do you feel "This Is Love" is a fitting segue into #willpower as a whole?
This is a good introduction to #willpower. Now, I want to put out singles, videos, talking points, and subject matters for people to have conversations about. This project is going to be really cool. I'm very excited about it.
You've always been open to evolution.
The world of music is changing. The industry is changing. Doing music to put out an album is so limiting now. There's got to be a bigger reason for it. That reason for me is philanthropy.
Is there a thread that ties #willpower together?
Actually, yes. #willpower is progressive thinking, overcoming adversities, and a reminder to stay optimistic. Then, there are fun songs. It's important to have balance. To always be deep for the sake of it isn't what the world wants. You need balance. This is album is balance. From Behind the Front to The Beginning, I'd say my best work in my history of making music is The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies). That's something I'm proud of. This could be that. I'm still fine-tuning #willpower because I know what my benchmark is. On The E.N.D., I was fucking focused. I made Songs About Girls to let out things I was feeling inside. It was successful creatively for me. It didn't sell massive amounts of units or get played all over the world, but it did other things. I learned. The result of my learning was The E.N.D.. This record is gearing up to be something that impactful.
What else influences you as a storyteller?
I love cinematography. I'd come up with the concept for every single Black Eyed Peas Video and select the director. I'd work with the wardrobe people. I directed "Where is the Love?", but I had help. I'm really hands-on, a little too much for some people's comfort [Laughs]. You want to pick great people to work with to execute your ideas. I've been blessed to work with great people. "This Is Love" was the first video I ever did completely by myself. I'm a studier. I like to go out and see old and new movies as well as good and bad movies. Seeing bad movies is very important. If you're spoon-fed the good stuff all the time, that isn't good for you creatively. Sometimes, you have to see bad movies to know what not to do. Listen to the radio. Go to underground clubs. Underground clubs are important. Now, I go to underground clubs and people are like, "What are you doing here?" I'm like, "What do you mean? I know what I'm doing here. Do you know what you're doing here? That's the question!" [Laughs] I'm here listening; you're just here being cool sucker [Laughs]. I take pride in the fact that I go to underground clubs and then go to the Queen's palace. That night was amazing. You do the Queen's Jubilee, you hangout at the palace, and then you go to The Wellington. That is me. That happens all of the time. You do the World Cup in South Africa, you do the after party, and then you go out with the locals in Johannesburg. You do the Super Bowl, play the parties, and go to the underground spots. You always have to have that balance. Or else you're just floating, reaping the success, and getting the free drinks. The free drinks and V.I.P. booth are dangerous. That's when everything starts to fall apart. Then, your life is different. You're not even in reality anymore because everything is free. You were poor and dreaming to have stuff. Now, you've got money, and you can afford to buy stuff. Everything you can buy is given to you though, and that's dangerous. Everything begins disappearing then—your creative perspective and connection to the people. That's bullshit.
If #willpower were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
It doesn't exist. If you were to compare The E.N.D. to a movie, it doesn't exist, and that's why it was successful. When you can compare it to something, people already have it. When you can't compare it and people adopt it, then you have something phenomenal. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to deliver something. Maybe "This Is Love" could've been on The E.N.D., but it couldn't have been on Behind the Front. It's a departure from The E.N.D., but it's still connected. It's still that season. I don't want to wear shorts in the winter just for the sake of it [Laughs]. It's still winter so I'm wearing a coat. I'm not going to say I'm the weatherman and change the weather on people.
What instantly comes to mind when you think of The E.N.D.?
It was something I identified. Everyone was in fall, and they were falling. No pun intended. I saw winter coming, right? I take pride in being able to have foresight. We were the first cats to do electronic music on Top 40 radio because we were able to predict the weather. It's going to start snowing. Now, when you turn on the radio, everyone is doing dance music. That wasn't the case in 2009. We were going to have David Guetta on the record. I was telling everyone, "We're featuring a DJ. He doesn't scratch. He's a different type of DJ". We were featuring what he does every day around the world. That didn't happen before. Kelly Rowland did it, but it wasn't all over the radio in America. That's what I take pride in with The E.N.D.. It's still winter so you can't be a dumbass rebel without a cause and come out with freaking speedo shorts in the middle of a blizzard. What the hell is that? The only thing that's going to happen is you're going to freeze your balls off. That's not the business I'm in [Laughs].
What's your favorite song on #willpower right now?
Right now, it's the title track. It's probably going to be the song I write today too.
What's your favorite will.i.am song?
See our review of "This Is Love" here!