Still, you'd be lying if you said you foresaw the heights they'd reach with The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies), an album loaded with electro-leanings and Euro-tech sheen. Working with French producer David Guetta, the Peas jettisoned most of the radio-friendly stuff they'd made their fortunes on and explored new sonic territories: whomping low-end, buzzing hooks, Auto-Tuned vocals.
"The DJ world, in the clubs, is where music actually lives. It's not just in America, or New York or L.A., it's everywhere in the world," Will.I.Am told MTV News last year. "So, Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta was a perfect combination, because his music plays all over the world, and we travel around the world, and our music is played all over the world. And I think that's the reason 'I Gotta Feeling' and 'Boom Boom Pow' are successful — because we made music for the time. We didn't rely on what was the machine yesterday, we made it for what actually is."
Though this is music more at home in Ibiza than Iowa, that didn't stop audiences in both places (and pretty much everywhere in between) from lapping it up en masse, as evidenced by the historic success of singles like "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling," which gave the group back-to-back #1's across the globe. And in the States, the ubiquitous songs kept the Peas at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 26 consecutive weeks.
The E.N.D. debuted at #1 in nine different countries and landed the Peas handfuls of awards at nearly every awards show in the world. And, in December, it earned them six Grammy nominations, including a nod for Album of the Year.
In a lot of ways, 2009 belonged to the Black Eyed Peas. They weren't even hindered by some rather sticky press — most notably manager Liborio "Polo" Molina's June assault of blogger Perez Hilton (charges were later dropped). They called their chart success "surreal," but you get the feeling they were just being humble. If their performance at the American Music Awards was any indication, they still expect great things from The E.N.D. They took some calculated risks, laid it all on the table, then stood back and watched the cards fall in their favor.
Last month, the Peas announced an ambitious world tour, which kicks off in February and stretches for more than 100 dates. In early December, "Boom Boom Pow" was named the most-downloaded track on iTunes, and, if The E.N.D. manages to walk away with the Grammy for Album of the Year come Sunday, it would serve not only as a rather nice bow on the past year, but as a proper coronation for the reigning kings of popular music. At this point, they might as well make it official.
Read all about Beyoncé's Road to the Grammys, and check back every day this week for stories about all the Best Album nominees before the big show this Sunday night.