Album Review: “Double Dutchess” by Fergie

By Niy Birden

Dutchess – BMG

Today, B.E.P member Fergie released her highly (and we do mean highly) long-awaited album Double Dutchess after a staggering 11 years. You thought 3 years was a long time? Or even 5? Try again.

But Fergie has always been one to surprise her audiences. While her absence has been one of constant discussion, she has been kind enough to surprise us with generous music tidbits, such as her infamous star-studded “M.I.L.F. $” released earlier in the year, and a few others. But now, Fergie has made it a point to let us know: we’d better not forget who she is. While her visuals do mostly differentiate with tone and genre, the effect makes us remember why we loved dancing to and watching her bangers like “London Bridge” and even “Fergalicious”. With a complimentary visual album slowly making its way into the YouTube-o-sphere, here’s a glance at her new album, Double Dutchess:

The album starts off with “Hungry”, a dark pad complimented with an even-darker foreign sung sample, and immediately we hear Rick Ross’ authoritative voice, having Fergie back him up. It’s a bit weird to hear Fergie, of all people, adapting to trap music, but it is fair to say that she was a part of one of the most commercially -successful and impactful rap groups ever, that being Black Eyed Peas. It was no secret that they were not afraid of adapting to new sounds.

In fact, their sound is what helped the hip hop/rap genre incorporate a new pop integration. Some heavily criticized it, but eventually a very large amount of people globally all decided that the music was of noteworthy cause. For that reason being, if there are any female rappers that have the full right to play along with new sounds unashamedly, it is definitely Fergie Ferg. She actually sounds more authentic, compared to even most newer male rappers. The traditional snare hits, paired with the chorus, cello-like pad and glitch effect, opens up the album in a very, as she so fairly puts it, ambitious way.

Both she and Ross do a very nice way of giving off the “Hungy” vibe. The paired music video also of course seals in the deal. It’s suffice to say that Fergie’s really taking a leap visually. An early shot of the video shows Fergie looking into a device normally worn during eye exams, immediately finding a similarity to the album art cover of Justin Timberlake’s 2012 album The 20/20 Experience. And the rest of the video makes the perfect thematic change from her previous videos with its dark-toned colors in high contrast and trippy double-shots. Very fitting for a modern rap video. The car, the smoke, but still Fergie’s glamour.

The real party begins, however, with the ego-encouraging (but never arrogant) “Like It Ain’t Nothin”. The intro hi-hat beat, paired with insanely 80’s-90’s nostalgic piano riff are very suitable for a quite simple jam that would make you feel as cool as her. Catchy, and energy-filled to match the Asian culture-themed music video, it makes you wonder how people like her and Beyonce go out in public and shoot these secret videos without word ever getting out. It has pop and locking breakdancers, an explosion of fashion, a gigantic colored robot that anyone regardless of age would want to play with, and numerous old school hip hop references. It is a bit odd seeing her try to match the coolness of the backup dancers, but her effortlessness as a rapper cleverly disguises it.

With Nicki Minaj however, of course the hip hop would be a true fashion and music moment for the both of them. Nicki hasn’t always paid homage to classic hip hop much like Fergie, so to see and hear her contribute for “You Already Know” is very female-empowering, considering the lack of charting female rappers in mainstream hip hop. In between the song, the music video, and Fergie’s recent performance of it on the Jimmy Fallon show, it is hard to pick a favorite. On one hand, you have the nostalgia of the nicely paired house beat with the classic drum break from the 80’s, and Fergie’s awesome delivery that reminds you of hip hop pioneers/influencers like WuTang Clan, Sugarhill Gang, or even Eminem. Then, you have the fashion-forward video with an awesome Nicki cameo. But you also have the live performance, where you get to see Fergie almost perfectly deliver those tongue-twisters live without breaking a sweat. And that odd chorus? It honestly makes more sense once you listen to it a few times.

Fergie doesn’t seem to be too concerned with album track placement. Immediately following is the even more trap-heavy track “Just Like You”, which features a noticeable reverb-echo effect and and cool-tone keys. The lyrics seem to go very well with the black and white music video, however what is more interesting is the amazing placement of the of the verses and chorus melody-wise. The song does not travel very far for it, but the simplicity of it makes it much more easier to be placed in the ‘catchy’ aspect of things.

It honestly sounds like what would happen if you placed Selena Gomez with trap-soul singer Bryson Tiller. A perfect combination of bubbly pop and post-modern R&B. And this time, the following track, “A Little Work” goes better with it. The guitar-plucking and EDM tip-toeing of course gives off “Big Girls Don’t Cry” similarity, but if Big Girls Don’t Cry was much more upbeat and carefree. Released late last year, it gives a real moment of vulnerability for Fergie, which we all know she is not afraid to show. But again, don’t get too comfortable.

“M.I.L.F $” not-so-slyly bursts through the middle of the album with another beat and clap rhythmic pairing, and it almost makes you wonder why rapper Iggy Azalea or even Nicki weren’t on there. These are exactly the kinds of tunes they’ve been doing for a while. And honestly, the “You muthaf****er” call-out really isn’t that insulting at all, but rather a bit complimentary, especially when seen through the music video. “Save It Til Morning” is only confusing because it follows right after, but, again, it seems like she isn’t really worried about song placement. It’s also confusing because although it is another guitar ballad, she includes some interesting trap mumble-rap like ad-libs during the pre-chorus.

The next track, “Enchanté (Carine)”, which featured both Kendall Jenner and Fergie’s son Axl Jack in the video seems oddly-placed, but next to “Tension”, it fits into the house/electro club theme. There aren’t much to the lyrics at all-it really is for senseless but still intention-driven dancing- but it gives Fergie a great return to the sound. The Black Eyed Peas were heavily EDM before they went on hiatus a few years ago.

“L.A. Love (LaLa)” is a nice homage to her hometown, but the most impressive song lyrically, melodically and even vocally is “Love Is Blind”. As someone who has regularly given vocals to Caribbean and Latin music (her work with Sergio Mendes for his B.E.P collaboration is quite impressive), it’s nice to hear her return to such a genuine and raw sound. With confidence, she sings out “F***k those other hoes” while pleading to be someone’s number one. It is a true reggae song. Lyrics detailing love-and its heartbreak overflow the song, and there’s even a nice breakdown near the end. Her voice is growly, euphoric, and sultry as ever. This is the type of song that you could truly see her having fun with whether to do multiple takes in studio or on stage for thousands of people. Which is why it will more than likely be a crowd-pleaser. And those horns? Magical.

Hilariously, the album closes on a song titled “Love Is Pain”. Is there a message in the album in this case? Usually when artists make tracks that are so close in title, they are separated by interludes or other tracks, but the message seems to almost slap you in the face with her chosen topic. A rock/pop ballad, it sounds like an epic mix of reggae dub, 80’s-era Heart, and Kelly Clarkson. There are no hesitations with her belting, in case you want to claim that she isn’t the same vocally. And the rock sample really makes you wonder where in the hell it fits in the album. However, once again, Fergie is one of those rare female musicians who have used numerous genres in their work, so she really gets a pass. But be sure not to stop your music players too quickly- a smooth neo-soul track gives the album an even more confusing but still perfect ending, making the listener highly await her next music video or album. If this last track is any inclination of Fergie’s next step, it’s pretty safe to say that the wait is over.