Personnel: Fergie (vocals); Rita Marley & The J-Three's (vocals); will.i.am (rap vocals, keyboards, programming); Ludacris (rap vocals); George Pajon (guitar); Nate Hills (drums, percussion); Jay Anderson (background vocals).
The association that versatile pop chanteuse Fergie (aka Stacy Ferguson) struck up with the hip-hop crew Black Eyed Peas (she was central to their hugely successful 2003 release, ELEPHUNK) proved she was capable of playing in the big leagues, and it was only a matter of time before the singer dropped a solo effort. THE DUTCHESS arrived in 2006 and was packed, not surprisingly, with slick, commercially viable pop-rap.
The first release on Black Eyed Pea will.i.am's record label, THE DUTCHESS seems intent on giving Beyonce, Kelis, and every female pop/R&B singer a run for her money. With production help from Polow the Don and will.i.am (who also contributes raps to a couple of songs), Fergie delivers a record that kicks out spare club tracks inspired by Missy Elliott and M.I.A. (such as the disc's lead-off single "London Bridge"), alongside sultry soul ballads ("Clumsy"). There aren't many surprises here, but THE DUTCHESS is a glossy, fun, and satisfying album, which is exactly what her fans are expecting.
Rolling Stone (p.69) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[F]ull of Eighties-style electro bangers, mostly produced by the Peas' Will.i.am, though Atlanta mogul Polow Da Don steals the show on 'London Bridge'..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.92) - "[She] retains the group's proven gift for indelible melodies....Here, she proves herself equally adept at well-deep reggae riddims, giddy dance-floor jams, and fervent ballads." -- Grade: B+