Fergie's work with the Black Eyed Peas and on her debut single "London Bridge" really did not prepare us for the fun and versatility of her album The Dutchess. Here Fergie proves herself a skilled entertainer that can make you dance, laugh, nearly cry, and just have a really good time. This is one solo project well worth the effort.
Fun and Versatility
The Dutchess kicks off with "Fergalicious," a self-congratulatory rap extravaganza borrowing a wicked groove from JJ Fad's seminal hit "Supersonic." Just as you finish chanting D to the E to the L-I-C-I-O-U-S with guest will.i.am, "Clumsy" rolls in mixing up the "Girl can't help it" chant from Little Richard's classic with a Casio keyboard line and Fergie's recitation of clumsiness in falling in love. Much of the album goes this way. Clever use of familiar samples and riffs from classics of pop music history, mash-ups across time periods and styles, all presided over by Fergie and her tough, independent, sometimes vulnerable, and often quite funny persona. Fergie is truly one of the few pop performers today who can pull off an ode to "Mary Jane Shoes" backed by Rita Marley and the I-Threes over the groove from Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry."
Perfection Not Required
Fergie is far from the most talented singer in the pop pantheon, and she does not wow you with the sheer power of meaning in her lyrics either. Possibly the closest parallel as a performer is Cyndi Lauper and her truly idiosyncratic image underlined by the wonders of what can be done within the constraints of a pop song. The Dutchess is Fergie's She's So Unusual.
When you project such an engaging and intriguing personality, perfection in performance is not required. Throughout the album Fergie sings, talks, and raps. You won't be blown away by the artistry, but you won't care either. Some of the slower balladic material is among the weakest on the album, but then, in the end, Fergie blows the listener away with a truly huge, slightly Broadway-styled, ballad "Finally."
Top Tracks on 'The Dutchess'
- Big Girls Don't Cry
- Mary Jane Shoes
One of the Best Debuts of the Year
The Dutchess is one of the top debuts of the year. Similar to Gwen Stefani's experience, this album is good enough to pull into question the wisdom of Fergie sticking with the Black Eyed Peas or considering striking out on her own. Part of the key to success here seems to be Fergie's musical fearlessness. When she steps forward at Black Eyed Peas concerts to warble the opening lines of Guns 'n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," staid music critics scoff and snicker. However, here, on record, Fergie has all of the last laughs. Adventurous, bold, and a whole lot of fun, she is an artist to be relished.