Fergie’s versatility more frustrating than fun on solo debut
Party rap may pay the bills, but no one would say that it’s particularly difficult.
On her new solo debut record “The Dutchess,” Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie goes to remarkable lengths to prove she can deliver more insipid dance tracks, like last year’s “My Humps.”
Trying to be everything to everyone, the former child-star goes for broke, turning in a sprawling 13-track record that hops from hip-hop to R&B to Ska and beyond. Sure, the album is versatile. But it’s also uneven, tough to sit through and too varied for its own good.
There’s one surprise. On “The Dutchess,” Fergie can pull off a starring role all by herself. Her music is fun, sexy and full of attitude. Whether rapping or singing, Fergie’s vocals are generally strong. But when she tries to flex her range, we start cracks in the R&B facade.
“The Dutchess” starts off nice and dirty, with the ’80s house-inspired “Fergalicious.” Like much of the Black Eyed Peas’ material, the track is more attitude than substance. But it’s a fun, if somewhat vacuous, opener.
Were Fergie to stick to one or even two styles, “The Dutchess” could easily have been a solid first effort. Instead, the ambitious singer tries to set out on every course she can think of. She’s sweet and wholesome on the piano ballad “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and the swelling orchestral closer “Finally.” She’s contemporary R&B on “All That I Got (The Make Up song)” and the pseudo-inspirational “Glamorous.” For the down-tempo “Voodoo Doll” and its more upbeat cousin “Mary Jane Shoes,” Fergie goes Stefani on us, kicking out the old-school ska beats and horn sections.
She even gives us a taste of jazz on the standout “Pedestal.”
And so it goes, from a bit of Bossa to classic hip-hop, to more R&B, etc. And while it’s clear that Fergie can show us many different faces over the course of a record, it never becomes clear just which face is really hers.
As a set of singles, “The Dutchess” may still have some life in it, particularly with the disturbingly catchy “London Bridge” still continuing to stalk the charts. In the end, this album amounts to little more than a long series of forgettable tracks with little in common to string them together.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.