Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2006 solo album The Dutchess by Black-eyed Peas vocalist, Fergie. Was it an album of majestic beauty and grace, or a right royal mess? Read on…
This 15 track album opens with an electro pop track Fergalicious, with Fergie giving a sassy gentle rapping over a simple handclapped, bass synth heavy, and vocal samples. This reminds me somewhat of Salt ‘n’ Pepa meets Peaches. Fergie’s band mate Will.i.am is here too, occasionally chucking in some vocals. At about the 2 min moment, the song adds an almost 50’s sounding 10 second section. The simplicity of the song, actually makes it really quite catchy.
Next up is the brilliant Clumsy, which is as catchy as hell. Here, Fergie is joined by a perfect sample of The Girl Can’t Help It by Little Richard, as a bleeping bouncy synth and beat carry Fergie’s soft breathy vocals wash over the top. Despite this being a great track, it stalled in the UK singles chart – mothballed at #62.
Some slick RnB tones follow in All That I Got (The Make Up Song), with lots of crackling vinyl, slinky bass, and En Vogue styled ‘woah woah’ vocals. This is a mid-tempo track, that throws in a slow beat and soaring strings. Will.i.am is back again for this song from about the 2m 30s point. Fergie’s vocals really shine here – as it gives her a chance to show off her vocal strength and range.
Lead single London Bridge is loaded with funky brass, sirens, and plenty of ‘oh shit!’ vocals. Lyrics include lines like ‘I’m such a lady, but I’m dancing like a ho. Cause you know I don’t give a fuck so here we go‘ kind of give you an idea as to how angry this song is. There’s plenty of words in this song that would get it removed from radio, including the two lads talking at the end. It’s an okay song, but I don’t think it deserved its #3 UK hit single chart position. Top 20 would have been fine.
Almost as if teasing the previous song, Pedestal opens with ‘Pedestal is falling down, falling down‘, a play on the children’s rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down, falling down‘. The song switches, to funky bass and a ton of handclaps as a piano has its ivories tickled occasionally. Again, the catchiness in this song is partly in its emptiness and simplicity.
A simple bass drum and snare opens Voodoo Doll as vocals whisper over the top. This is loaded with brass, percussion, and is probably best described as dub or reggae. A strange ending section sounds like Christina Aguilera has been trapped in a small cupboard.
Glamorous follows this, and this is a really catchy track – unsurprisingly a hit for her. Ludacris takes the vocals alongside Fergie here, with a rap at about the 2min mark. Fergie’s vocals are gentle, playful, breathy and warm here, particularly as she spells out the song’s title. The single gave her a #6 UK hit.
The next song Here I Come starts off with one of the most nostalgic samples – from Get Ready by The Temptations. Sadly, The Temptations’ classic is murdered in cold blood (mostly) as Fergie seems to sing a little too high, and her vocals and the handclaps sound like a karaoke version. The handclaps particularly jar here, even though the rap and the synth sections seem to fit well.
Next up is Velvet. Musically it sounds as luxurious as its title, as a gentle beat, acoustic guitar, breathy vocals, and a meandering bass play. At times, I feel that I could almost imagine this sounding right at home on an All Saints album. The breathy sounds increase towards the end before a little giggle brings it to a close.
Acoustic guitars usher in Big Girls (Don’t Cry), which is a wonderfully warm, delicate and sad song. I remember this being released as a single, and really liked it. It’s simple, and yet has many layers of guitars, strings, and vocals. Fergie’s vocals really shine here as she throws her range around with great ease. This was a huge #2 UK hit for her. At times, it sounds like it’s a song that Pink! would have killed to release as her own.
Eleventh track Mary Jane Shoes features Rita Marley and The I-Three’s, lending a melody from Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry. Unsurprisingly, the song is reggae styled, and has a nice percussive and plodding tempo. Then suddenly heavy metal appears at about 2m 40s, giving Fergie a stark contrast of vocal styles in one song, but then at 3m 25 the song twists again, with Fergie singing to a piano and bass, in a jazz singer style. This song is a bit of a mess.
Losing My Ground, begins with a hard beat, a speaking clock, and Fergie not quite sure what day or time she’s on as an acoustic guitar sequence gets the song going. Bass and strings arrive as the chorus builds up. This is quite a nice song, although I could easily imagine Girls Aloud picking this track up and doing it justice. The dramatic soaring string section really helps the song build perfectly.
Finally is a strings and piano (performed by John Legend) laden song, with Fergie’s rich and beautifully impressive vocals shining so bright, although towards the end she gives off another wave of Christina-styled vocals. I wonder if this could have been a Christmas number one, or will be at some point, or be filleted by an X Factor winner. Its simplicity and warmth really help it sit perfectly here at what for most versions of this album is the closing track.
However, there’s two more songs..
Get Your Hands Up featuring The Black Eyed Peas is up next, and the pace is up again, with plenty of gang shouting vocals. Fergie’s vocals sit here amongst growling synths and male rap vocals. There’s what sounds like swanee-whistle, which makes me chuckle a bit, and what would top that would be to have thrown in a sample of Ottawan’s Hands Up! 80’s hit… but it’s missing. Instead it’s shouting vs uwanee-whistle. Not that inspiring.
The album closes proper with Wake Up, itself starting with heavy bass drums and an electric guitar, before these let rip into a full-on rock track. Fergie puts in another almost-Pink! performance for this guitar-led heavy song. She roars the chorus out, so if you were dosing off by this point in the album, you’ll soon reach over to switch this song off.
No… hang on, there’s a yet another song – a secret track titled Maybe We Can Take A Ride, which is a jazz song, with a ton of breathy vocals. A simple beat is joined by piano, and some menacing brass before the song pitch slows and bends and the song dies. That, I think, is it.
Over all, this album really is one long playful mixed bag. When it’s good, it’s wonderful, when it’s bad, it’s boringly weak. Tracks like Here I Come, Clumsy, Losing My Ground, Big Girls (Don’t Cry), Glamorous, Velvet and Finally, really show off Fergie’s vocals perfectly, and shows her perform across a nice range of styles. Other songs feel a bit disjoined here when sat beside them.
Whilst I applaud the experimental and range of styles, that they’re all here shoe-horned in what is a long album, makes it a bit of a bumpy ride.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2006 UK CHART PEAK: #18
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.