Is being the most talented member of the Black Eyed Peas an achievement? No.
But you have to give it to Fergie, she certainly has staying power. Not many people can take eleven years off in between records. Fergie, for her part, has kept herself busy recording with her former group, as well as touring widely and flogging some fragrance for Avon.
Her new album dropped last Friday with barely a ‘ploop’ in the #NewMusicFriday social media wishing well. It was only this week I even caught wind of it, hence the delay, though I can’t say many of us have been braying for a follow up to ‘M.I.L.F. $’.
That song is even more of an ear-sore now than before, on an album that is disjointed to the point of schizophrenia. The Double Duchess is failure on a huge scale, a confounding pile-up of time and talent. It’s a Pop Hindenburg for sure, yet another one to crash upon the canopy-strewn wasteland of Pop In 2017.
I remember listening to Dark Side of the Moon for the first time and thinking my record player was broken. The outstretching intro of ‘Time’ had me checking to make sure the player wasn’t set for ’45s. It was to my surprise that this feeling came to me again on playing Double Duchess.
‘Hungry’ opens with echoed orchestral chants that end abruptly, before re-starting a moment later without any kind of transition. They drop out several times with no warning before Fergie even starts singing. I can only interpret this as the work of an intrepid technician desperately trying to end Double Duchess before it can do any more harm.
What the opening track does suggest is some sort of creative thrust, some desire to provoke; an idea that is forgotten by the opening bars of ‘Money Ain’t Nuttin”. It’s a one-two punch that lays bare the cavernous gap between Fergie’s intentions and the resulting music.
For all her talk of soul-searching, rumination on drug abuse and motherhood, Double Duchess is nothing but wallpaper, and dreadful wallpaper at that.
This is an album that sounds ugly, and considering this is an audial art form, that seems a pretty fundamental flaw. The last time a big-budget comeback sounded like this much arse was ARTPOP, but that album had some sense of direction, and at least two songs which were tuneful pop hits.
‘L.A. Love (la la)’ is the only track here that would even get a toehold on the Billboard charts, as it did on release. It is still a woeful tune.
The only flicker of life in this album is the track featuring Fergie’s son Axl Jack. Even this moment of genuine charm is short-lived.
Whether the sweet giggling of a child should appear on an album with lyrics like this…
…is a question for the listener.
This tonal inconsistency speaks to a broth with far too many cooks. There are fifteen producers on this album. How exactly can pop personality be retained when the writing team is this large? For reference, a competing team in the World Cup will only be allowed 23 players on the plane.
There are over forty co-writers. For just thirteen songs. There were thirty six passengers on the Hindenburg. So I suppose that’s an improvement.
Fergie’s second album leaves the listener with nothing. There are no pop thrills here to be had. It is too muddled to even make it to the club. Certainly there is no chance of emotional engagement. Double Duchess is a complete mess.