On top of the music world for much of the 2000s, pop-rap group Black Eyed Peas impacted the global charts and became an indelible part of the mainstream with their crowd-pleasing electro-hip-pop hybrid anthems that would provide the soundtrack to school dances, weddings, and sporting events for years to come.
Following the 2010 release of their sixth album, The Beginning, they went silent, releasing just one other LP that decade, a throwback to their '90s rap roots that abandoned the disposable pop candy of their peak popularity period (as well as longtime vocalist Fergie).
Despite that album's sincerity, depth, and urgent societal messages, Masters of the Sun failed to capture much attention and the group quickly pivoted back to familiar territory for their next effort.
Rey Soul (whose vocals echo Fergie's in a very calculated fashion) set their sights on the mainstream once again with 2020's Translation, another stylistic shift that brought the Peas into the world of Latin pop and back to the dancefloor where they belong.
Playing like an extended club set, the album slides seamlessly from track to track, maintaining the increased heart rate and hypnotic energy alongside a who's who from the Latin pop world.
Colombian reggaeton king J Balvin joins them on their first platinum certification since the waning days of their peak period with "Ritmo," while Puerto Rico's Ozuna assists with another radio hit on "Mamacita." The party traverses across continents with Maluma, Shakira, Nicky Jam, Becky G, French Montana, and more, who each trade verses with the Peas atop will.i.am's ever-spotless production and inspired sampling choices.
In addition to interpolating Corona's 1993 Euro-dance crossover smash "Rhythm of the Night" on "Ritmo," he later mines past favorites from Madonna, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Miami Sound Machine, MC Hammer, and La Bouche to maximum effect.
As intentional and obvious as it is, these studio tricks hit the mark, providing a satisfying and nostalgic distraction from the world with addictive earworms designed to dance one's cares away.
The only time the Peas allow reality to infiltrate the mix is on "News Today," a sobering summary of the headline-grabbing ills plaguing society in 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic to systemic racism and police brutality.
Fortunately, the track arrives once the dance party concludes, harshing none of the buzz that they've carefully crafted on the 14 preceding songs.
Throbbing and covered in sweat, Translation is unapologetic in its intent and a surprisingly welcome reminder of the Peas' power to lift spirits not through socially conscious bars, but internationally appealing, borderless people-pleasing that unites through dance.