‘The Dutchess’ not so regal

Those who can sing should. So what’s with the trend of female singers hiding their truly talented voices by rapping? Gwen Stefani came out with 2004’s Love, Angel, Music, Baby, Nelly Furtado released Loose last June, and now the Black Eyed Peas’ Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson brings The Dutchess. The approach is OK – if it’s done right.

One would think that as the awesome set of pipes behind the Grammy-winning Peas’ catchy hooks, Fergie’s solo album would be a smash.

However, The Dutchess is unfortunately not quite a delicious dish. It’s not for a lack of talent -the girl can sing. The faults with the album lie mostly with its tone, as Fergie cannot decide if she wants to write songs about getting crunk in a club or taking an introspective look at life. Sometimes these two themes can mesh well, but it just doesn’t happen here.

The first track, “Fergalicious,” has Fergie collaborating with bandmate and one of the executive producers of her album, will.i.am. The two make a good team. With flowing bass lines and Fergie’s sing-song style of rapping, the song is reminiscent of the Peas’ “My Humps” as she raps “Fergalicious / So delicious / But I ain’t promiscuous / And if you was suspicious / All that s— is ficticious / I blow kisses.”

“Clumsy” and “All That I Got (The Make-Up Song)” are the next two tracks, and they seem to go down the introspective road of falling in love and asking the million-dollar question of a significant other, “Would you love me / If I didn’t work out / Or I didn’t change my natural hair.”

But once listeners hit “London Bridge,” Fergie’s first single off the album and her Stefani-esque attempt at recreating “Hollaback Girl,” they are in for a bumpy ride of hits and misses.

The album takes quite a turn after “London Bridge,” which sounds like a track so simple and laughable that someone could cut it with friends. Just listen to the chorus, and it will become apparently clear (as I am sure you have been inundated with it over the airwaves): “How come every time you come around / My London, London bridge want to go down like / London, London, London / Be goin’ down like.” Come on now, Fergie. I know you can do better.

Some tracks that would evoke a “meh,” such as “Glamorous,” are next, and then the album reaches familiar territory – a sample of “Get Ready” by The Temptations contained in Fergie’s “Here I Come.”

This could have been a stellar track – it contains a sample with a catchy hook that’s instantly recognizable. But Fergie’s chance to come back on the record is dashed by her choice to rap about two octaves lower than she normally does. The end result sounds like an attempt to emulate Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott. As she sings in her normal voice on the chorus, though, one can easily sing along – for this, the track is almost redeemed.

The doldrums continue until the last song, “Finally,” when Fergie gets back to her roots, as she sings – yes, sings – “Ever since I was a baby girl I had a dream / Cinderella theme, crazy as it seems.” Introspection is a theme on this album, if an inconsistent one, and this is where she shines.

However, there’s a hitch: After the bulk of the song ends, there’s about a minute and a half of silence, and she comes back reincarnated as a jazz singer, breathlessly singing, “Maybe we could take a ride,” over and over. This part of the song should be chopped, as it is unnecessary and throws the listener off.

The Dutchess is quite misguided in its direction, wavering between moods and tones. It has trouble deciding upon its identity, possibly reflecting Fergie – who battled drug abuse years ago – herself. Perhaps on Fergie’s next solo effort (which she should definitely attempt), she’ll transform from a duchess into a queen.

Grade: C