Saturday, October 14, 2017

Double Dutchess | Fergie



Fergie could have enjoyed both the luxury of name recognition and the artistic freedoms normally granted only to brand new artists when she embarked on a solo endeavor in 2006. But settling on the philosophy that things that aren't broken shouldn't be fixed, she didn't go far from what she knew: will.i.am, The Black Eyed Peas ringleader and the executive producer of what everybody knows is Britney Spears' worst album, wasn't far from Fergie's side, producing and featuring on solo debut The Dutchess to immense commercial reception. And despite the album's wild success and what was once a widespread demand for a sophomore solo record, its long-overdue follow-up, Double Dutchess, is nothing but double trouble.

Double Dutchess feels so awkward largely thanks to its faulty timing. Between the releases of "L.A. Love (La La)" and the full-length record, I was able to earn a bachelor's degree. More importantly, though, the popular music industry has flipped what feels like 50 pages in its coursebook for success; DJ Mustard, whose production tag is sewn into "L.A. Love," fell out of style not long after the track's 2014 release. And by shoving the dated song alongside 12 unrelated, inconsistent ones produced amid a rocky promotion cycle and eventual record contract dissolution, she furthers the feeling that this haphazard pop album was forced together like a puzzle finished with pieces from six different boxes.

The Dutchess, even if ridiculous at times, maintained a grasp on a similar sonic palette: pop music built on retro-R&B production bases. Yet throughout Double Dutchess, Fergie cannot sit still – and it's hard to be taken seriously as the jack of all trades when critics barely considered her the master of one to begin with. Perhaps her least successful alter ego throughout is chintzy, second-rate reggae Fergie with "Love is Blind," but following close behind is adult contemporary Fergie, who hit the jackpot once on "Big Girls Don't Cry" but couldn't dare repeat it on acoustic-based tracks "Life Goes On" and "Save It Til Morning" on this album.

It's only when Fergie stops taking herself too serious attitude that Double Dutchess reveals its best material. "Tension" dives into deep synths and a seductive guitar line, making for the album's most blatant highlight as Fergie takes to the dance floor. Interpolating the one-off '80s hip-hop hit "It Takes Two," the Nicki Minaj-featured "You Already Know" hypnotizes listeners into bouncing along to the classic sample and eventually rattling along with Fergie-Ferg and Minaj. Hell, even "M.I.L.F. $" is at least honest in its absurdity, making the relentless rap track at least ironically enjoyable as a party track in same sense as "My Humps."

But the attitude can be stretched only so far over poor songwriting. While fierce vocal delivery is meant to electrify tracks like "Hungry" and "Like It Ain't Nuttin'," Fergie fails to recognize that the ill-fated tracks, like many on Double Dutchess, should have been killed on the studio floor to spare everyone the trouble – three years of trouble for herself and a flurry of songwriters and producers. And so it seems that in attempt to convince herself that she didn't waste three years to produce weak melodies and uninspired lyrics for nothing, Fergie didn't even try to put lipstick on the pig that is this flimsy album – she just greased it up and let it loose on the streets anyway.

Double Dutchess is available now under Dutchess Music.

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Maira Gall