Forget all that you know about Fergie. Forget about her trampy sense of fashion, her wet pants, her recovery from drug addiction and all that plastic surgery. Just listen to her solo debut "The Dutchess" and be pleasantly surprised by a whole new Fergie. Introduced by the brassy big beats of "London Bride," the disc is a collection of 14 slick and infectious tracks that makes it easily one of the most noteworthy pop records of the year. Who would've thought?
Yeah, sure. Most of the tunes on the album are rip offs that borrow from every sound, production trick, genre and vocal style that is in vogue right now. But savvy production mastermind Will.i.am deserves kudos for skilllfully recycling existing ideas to create pure pop perfection. His efforts actually help to to popularize many underground sounds. In fact, I'm convinced that without Diplo and M.I.A., "London Bridge" would have sounded a whole lot different.
"The Dutchess" features a range of different styles and moods. One of my favorite songs on the album is the jazzy "Clumsy" that includes some kicky electro grooves. She continues the bold street vibe of "London Bridge" on the next single "Fergalicious" that is based on Afro Rican "Give It All You Got" and JJ Fad's "Supersonic." She goes pop on the delicate "Glamorous," which is Fergie's take on Gwen Stefani's "Luxurious." The singer also daringly incorporates some reggae and even ska on "Voodoo Doll" and "Mary Jane Shoes" (that features Rita Marley).
Previously, I have not been impressed by Fergie's vocal range. But on heartfelt ballads like "All That I Got" and the John Legend produced "Finally" the singer tears it up Celine-style. The mid-tempo, acoustic "Big Guys Don't Cry" also prominently features her vocals and should definitely be a single contender.
Fergie's strongest lyrical stand is "Pedestal" that supposedly attacks gossip bloggers and other celebrity hounds. "Record sales are on the mark. And that's about the time the rumors start," she sings. "Who are you and what do you do that makes you think you're above me. But have you walked in my shoes?"
"The Dutchess" is by far one of 2006's biggest guilty pleasures. And even though sales are lagging in its second week of release, I'm convinced that "The Dutchess" will be around for a while.