“Let me simply inform you this,” will.i.am says, mentioning Black Eyed Peas’ summer season hit “Do not You Fear”, a collaboration with Shakira and David Guetta. “We had been No 1 in Mexico for seven weeks, about to be No 1 in France. High 5 or high 10 in Italy and Spain. Oh, I’ve all of it right here! One second. Right here we go…” He gears up. “Two million Shazams all over the world! YouTube: 74 million views!” We transfer on to TikTok and Instagram. “We have got all of the nation charts right here, No 5 in France, 13 in Germany, No 4 in Mexico, final week it was No 3…”
Three minutes later, he’s nonetheless going. “Yeah, so the explanation why I wish to carry that up,” he says – and, to be sincere, I had been questioning, since I might solely requested after we can anticipate the subsequent Black Eyed Peas album – “we’re a bunch that got here out within the 90s, proper? And often on high 40 radio, 40-year-olds aren’t performed… Did you discover I did not say something concerning the ‘grownup’ pop charts, the place they put the ‘adults’? Like, there’s a complete chart known as grownup…”
“Grownup modern,” his PR chips in. “Grownup-contemporary! That is the place the over-forties usually go. As a result of we reside in an ageist society. Our profession ought to have been winding down within the high 40. However we’re within the high 40 in France. The track’s not even in French! What does that inform you concerning the world?
It tells you numerous about will.i.am. The person born William Adams is an effervescent spirit, buoyant, talkative to the purpose of unstoppable, with a pointy eye for element.
It’s exhausting to think about him ever winding down: whereas most individuals acknowledge him as rapper, songwriter and producer with Black Eyed Peas and decide on ITV expertise sequence The Voice, his enterprise portfolio is that of a person plugged into cutting-edge entrepreneurialism. He arrange his personal tech firm i.am+ and has invested in all method of start-ups. The World Financial Discussion board, no much less, labeled him a “artistic innovator” [and] futurist… and expertise investor”.
He’s on video name right this moment, having simply landed again in LA from Black Eyed Peas’ summer season tour by way of Saudi Arabia. He says he’s jet-lagged, although it’s exhausting to inform given the prolonged and detailed solutions he offers (which while you’re on a decent schedule is each a blessing and a curse).
He’s proper about Black Eyed Peas’ longevity. will.i.am shaped the group in 1995, initially as a rap group with a social conscience. However by 2003 breakthrough hit “The place is the Love?”, they’d pivoted into rap-pop and have not seemed again: hits similar to “My Humps” and “I Acquired a Feeling” helped them to greater than 80 million report gross sales . They survived the departure of Fergie, maybe the group’s most recognizable voice, who left them in 2010.
His hit-making prowess has made him a magnet to the celebrities. He has labored with the likes of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Usher and Miley Cyrus: all instructed, he has had a hand in additional than 40 high 40 UK hits, promoting practically 10 million singles.
In 2013, her Britney Spears collaboration “Scream & Shout” reached No 1 within the UK. He counts Spears as a buddy of her, and talks lovingly of the top of her controversial conservatorship of her.
“I am so completely satisfied for Britney on a number of ranges,” he says. “She fought and fought to have management of her life from her. And he or she’s married and completely satisfied – Sam [Asghari] is an superior dude. You understand, simply take into consideration the issues they’d in all probability discuss earlier than they went to sleep? He is been on her aspect of her to consolation her, and fought together with her. He that is an angel, there. And to suppose your loved ones would maintain you down, and the household you chose can be there to assist decide you up? That is stunning.”
He’s happy, too, to see Britney releasing new music: she hit No 1 in 40 international locations together with her Elton John collaboration “Maintain Me Nearer”. “Music has been her pleasure, but in addition a part of the explanation why she’s been preventing. And now she’s having success with the choices that she made. It is stunning. I like her.”
will.i.am is right here to speak about The Voice, the eleventh sequence of which is underway. He’s the one decide to have been on the present since its inception on BBC One in 2012. Given how busy he’s, I ask what retains bringing him again. He loves the UK, he says, however extra so the present’s format, and the possibility to assist aspirational singers.
“Dua Lipa is my favourite artist on the planet,” he says. “However is she on prime-time TV each Saturday evening, September by December? It is nice for brand spanking new artists, no matter whether or not they develop into stars.”
“Becky Hill is proof that the present works,” he provides, unprompted. A contestant on the primary sequence, Becky Hill final yr had a top-10 debut album, and carried out on Love Island and at Wembley earlier than England’s Lionesses gained Euro 2022. “Thank God for Becky Hill!”
He has truly pre-empted considered one of my questions: in contrast with, say, The X Issue (which produced large acts similar to One Route, Little Combine and fellow decide Olly Murs), why does The Voice, as entertaining as it’s, have such a poor hit price in making pop stars? You would be right here a very long time making an attempt to recollect any of the previous winners. (Hill herself was solely a semi-finalist.)
“It takes some time to construct a profession,” he insists. I am not satisfied. Is it the music trade’s fault?
“The trade is in a pickle. What’s the trade, anyway? He goes on to make the purpose that since The Voice began, expertise (TikTok, Spotify, Instagram) means the trade is continually chasing its tail.
Within the US, will.i.am has been a decide of a expertise present of a unique sort. Alter egowith fellow judges Alanis Morissette and Grimes, criticizes not people however digital avatars: contestants sing backstage in headsets, whereas their digital avatar performs on stage.
It appears the antithesis of The Voice: the seek for uncooked human expertise and emotion versus the heartless digital world.
“I do not suppose you perceive the facility of what that little present was meant to offer you,” he retorts. “It is a peek of what is coming,” he suggests. “Sooner or later, I’d wager that tomorrow’s Michael Jackson shouldn’t be an individual. He it is a machine that can have the ability to speak to tens of millions of individuals on the identical time. Tomorrow’s huge celebrity will have the ability to make customized songs Michael Jackson wasn’t in a position to report. Tomorrow’s celebrity goes to be excellent.”
I might say that is one thing of a terrifying, BlackMirror-esque dystopian prospect; will.i.am says this form of factor is already taking place.
“We’re already speaking with a bot. Do you suppose the folks you are speaking to on Instagram and Twitter are folks on a regular basis? And so they’re gonna get increasingly refined, to the purpose the place bots can sing songs and have a bodily presence. They will have the ability to categorical themselves. You’ll FaceTime and video convention with them.”
Is the world prepared for that? “We will not even freaking offers with pretend information! We’re not going to know the distinction between an actual and a pretend individual. We do not even know the distinction between actual information and pretend information! We reside in a world the place folks already wish to alter themselves to appear like a filter. We have been so infiltrated by expertise that the filter is enjoying you.
“So we may be super-critical of The Voice and ITV for not creating a star,” he says, “however the brand new planet hasn’t been developed but! We’re in flux and it is a good time to create, it is a good time to design, it is a good time to think about, it is a good time to reimagine. It is a good time to compete with the giants.”
The Voice UK airs on Saturdays at 8pm on ITV