If you watched “American Idol” on Thursday, May 2, you witnessed one of the most remarkable performances ever seen on television.
The artist was the amazing, always inventive will.i.am — with a lot of well-choreographed accompaniment — performing “Bang Bang” from the motion picture “The Great Gatsby.” It was a feast for the eyes and the ears as will.i.am and company, snazzily dressed from head to toe, brilliantly created a 1920s scenario. No one who saw it will ever forget it. (You might still be able to watch it on YouTube.)
But that is the sort of thing we have come to expect from will.i.am (and yes, he lowercases the “w”). Think for a minute about those wildly imaginative Black Eyed Peas TV performances and videos.
There seems to be no limits to this man’s talents — producer, rapper, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, voice actor and on it goes. He has been richly rewarded for his efforts, including seven Grammy Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, three World Music Awards, a Billboard Music Award and a Teen Choice Award.
Those were all Black Eyed Peas projects, produced by will.i.am, but he has also produced an array of other acts, including Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Earth, Wind & Fire, Usher, Britney Spears and U2.
The Black Eyed Peas reached their highest peak with the 2009 release of the mega-selling album “The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies)” which was loaded with exciting hits such as “Boom Boom Pow,” “Rock That Body,” “I Gotta Feeling” and “Meet Me Halfway.” The group even performed at the Super Bowl.
BORN William James Adams Jr. in predominantly Hispanic East Los Angeles, will.i.am had a mother who was a staunch believer in her son cultivating his musical skills and making a point of being unlike anyone else. She also instilled a sense of independence.
“Most singers in the industry have managers, producers and A&Rs. I manage myself and produce myself,” he said, adding this playful zinger: “Singers don’t know any better.”
Interestingly, in high school he met and became friends with Allan Pineda (stage name: apl.de.ap) who would later become one of the founding members of the Black Eyed Peas along with will.i.am.
will.i.am and apl.de.ap were still in high school when they and three others formed a socially conscious rap group strangely called Atban Klann. At the time he was known as Will 1X. The group’s name was changed to the Black Eyed Pods and later to the Black Eyed Peas.
THROUGH the years there had been a series of personnel changes, but the group line-up stabilized with will.i.am, apl.de.ap, Taboo (Jaime Gomez) and Fergie (Stacy Ann Ferguson).
Will there be another Black Eyed Peas album? Yes, but only when the time is right. Meanwhile, the members are involved in other projects. will.i.am’s solo album is titled “#willpower.”
As would be expected, will.i.am is also involved in the world of fashion but, of course, not mainstream fashion. He is a man who is turned off by the thought of dressing like anyone else. Before the formation of the Black Eyed Peas, he attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, which is located in Los Angeles.
In 2005 he introduced a clothing line of his creation, i.am. He introduced it in Las Vegas at the Magic Apparel Trade Show.
Considering the technical aspects of his videos and stage show, it is also not surprisingly that he is very much interested in robotics, computers, etc. He was named director of creative innovation by Intel Corp. in 2011, which meant having input in developing tablets, laptops and smartphones.
On the philanthropic side, he founded i.am.angel, an organization committed to “transforming lives through education, opportunity and inspiration.”
Looking at everything will.i.am does, the title of that Black Eyed Peas song comes to mind: “Boom, boom, pow!”