In will.i.am‘s latest music video, the rapper sits behind a news desk, mouthing the words to 2012 #willpower track “The World Is Crazy.” As he does this, footage of recent events like the killing of Eric Garner appear near his head while a standard ticker rolls across the bottom of the screen. These images are all hyperlinks, and clicking on any of them pauses the song to load an article within the frame of the video.
“I couldn’t really understand why people haven’t noticed that when you watch TV, the tickers on the bottom or the little square when the news reporter’s talking – you can never interact with them,” he says, calling from London after appearing at the BBC Awards.
For Will, the technology displayed in the video opens up countless new possibilities; he says that collaborating with a coder should be no different than composing with a guitarist. “In the past, when people wrote songs they never knew that you can actually dive deeper,” he explains. “There was never a platform that allowed you to dive deeper on that train of thought. I can give you clever little wordplays that make my point stick, but to prove it I gotta give you detail and I gotta go in-depth. I gotta give you facts.”
The Black Eyed Peas frontman points to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as retroactive examples: “I wish I could see exactly what Bob Marley was talking about. If he was to have these tools today, he would’ve shown you all the trials and tribulations that he was talking about in the songs.”
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In this great future, new technology could also give the user control over the song itself. “You’d be able to click any type of icon and change it from the guitar to a Rhodes,” Will says. “You want options now. I’m pretty sure Bob Marley sang that with an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar. He probably sang it on a piano. He probably sang it with just the bass, but the only one that we have is one that we recorded because that’s the limitations of the technology of the past.”
Accordingly, Will is bored by the question of how new albums should sound and arrive. “That’s like saying this question: If you were to travel to London from New York, are you going to take a boat? Like, motherfucker, we got airplanes! That’s an old platform, dude. Like, albums? Fifteen songs and only three videos? Seriously? In this day and age? Why are we still talking about albums?”
Asked what artists broke new ground in 2014, he cites only Apple and Google, insisting that “musicians are stuck in the bone age.” Later, he returns to the subject of albums: “Fuck albums. Forever.”