I have a clear memory of getting a copy of Fergie’s The Dutchess when I was in seventh grade and playing the disc over and over and over again. In fact, I have the exact same copy sitting on my shelf as I type this. It still eludes me as to how my parents let a twelve-year-old, fresh out of sixth grade buy The Dutchess, seeing as the cover is of a sheer lingerie-clad Fergie suggestively kneeling on a pink bed and giving the camera some serious seductive side eye. But she was all the rage and I had to have it (I also have pretty cool parents).
If you told me that the next time I would be listening to a Fergie solo album would be when I was 22, I would have thought you were insane. But hey, life happens, and band members venturing out on solo projects rarely have an easy transition.
For the majority of the early and mid-2000’s, The Black Eyed Peas were one of the most popular musicians on the scene. They dominated Top 40 radio and had a wide audience due to their unique fusion of pop, reggae, hip-hop, and R&B, that evolved over the years to fit the members’ interests and the changing radio landscape. Fergie, the sole female among three guys (Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, and Taboo), brought a badass and powerful vibe as a woman in the industry. Her vocals were raspy, and she could easily go from belting it out to throwing out reggae-inspired hip-hop verses right along with her bandmates.
The Dutchess, Fergie’s foray into solo material, was a memorable pop album that still holds up almost eleven years after its release. Iconic songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Glamorous,” and “Fergalicious” have stood the test of time and have cemented themselves as early 00’s pop classics. The sound of that album has elements from The Black Eyed Peas, but is ultimately different enough to separate it from the group’s music.
Despite huge success from The Dutchess, Fergie continued to make music and tour with The Black Eyed Peas until their most recent album The Beginning was released in 2011. Between then and now, Fergie had gone through a devastating separation with actor Josh Duhamel. The struggles in her marriage weren’t known publicly, but now with the release of Double Dutchess, the song titles and lyrics show that there was a lot that led up to her current situation. It also explains why this album took much longer than expected to be released.
The first three tracks on Double Dutchess are, frankly, a horrible lead into this otherwise good album. Fergie is trying to establish with the opening songs that she is hip and cool with current sounds (think DJ Khaled-esque, but worse). Fergie can rap, as she’s displayed many times over on successful Black Eyed Peas tracks, but the rap she’s doing here is plain irritating and should have been left off the record.
Thankfully, the album takes a sharp turn for the better with the tracks “Just Like You,” “A Little Work,” and “Life Goes On,” where Fergie starts to really sing and emote the way she’s capable of. “Life Goes On” in particular is a standout on the record. It has a catchy, positive rhythm and Fergie successfully intertwines a smooth rap verse that adds to the song overall.
There is a slight misstep and cringe-worthy moment on the unfortunately viral single “M.I.L.F $.” It was released as a promo single and has an accompanying video featuring famous moms like Kim Kardashian West. It’s a flat-out bad song that is stuck in the middle of the track listing, interrupting the flow entirely. Maybe she wanted to have another “Fergalicious” type hit, but this is not even on the same playing field.
The album continues with solid pop tracks like “Save it Til Morning,” “Enchante (Carine),” “Tension,” and “L.A. LOVE (lala)” that all shine on their own and bring variety, while still maintaining cohesion. “Tension” gives major Confessions on a Dance Floor vibes, and “L.A. LOVE (lala),” which was an early single (this album had originally been set to release much earlier), draws heavily on sounds from The Black Eyed Peas’ Elephunk era, but with a modern twist. “Save it Til Morning” is Fergie’s 2017 response to “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; Both are similar in tone, vocals, and melody. Eleven years has given Fergie time to show that sometimes, big girls do cry, and that embracing emotion, anger, and hard times in life is okay. “I won’t be your punching bag, why did I put up with that?” she sings. She’s had enough, and is seeing things clearly when looking back on her struggles.
The two closing songs, “Love is Blind” and “Love is Pain,” have a sharp contrast in sound between one another, and really let listeners into Fergie’s thoughts towards her relationship struggles. Her voice trembles in raw emotion on “Love is Pain,” making it the most compelling on the album, and a stunning note to end on. Fergie lets go vocally on this song the most she ever has. It’s moving, poignant, and you can physically feel how much hurt and emotion she has gone through. It’s hard to believe this song exists on the same album as “M.I.L.F. $.”
If some of the throwaway, try hard rap tracks were cut from this record it would be an excellent comeback, but leaving them on has made it a disjointed project. Overlooking those, the good moments do outweigh the bad. Fergie has taken inspiration from multiple places on this record – her original debut sound, her music with The Black Eyed Peas, modern dance music, and reggae. She has successfully melded these genres into something that feels refreshing, yet brings the listener back to the sound she introduced in 2006. Fergie took the time needed to make an album that, while imperfect, truly reflects who she is and stays true to her style.
It’s important to note that Double Dutchess is available in a ‘Deluxe Visual Experience’ version, where Fergie pulled a Beyoncé and created visuals (videos) for each song on the album. The visual aspect of the record can be viewed on iTunes, Apple Music, and some on YouTube for those interested. If you only want to check out one video from the bunch, ‘Love is Pain’ is a personal favourite, and a stunning visual representation of the song.
Grade: A –
“Life Goes On”
“Save it Til Morning”
“Love is Blind”
“Love is Pain”
(Feature Image: Dutchess Music in partnership with BMG Rights Management)