The Dutchess (Interscope)

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Fergie can’t get a break. Black Eyed Peas are constantly derided for being stoopid, and for some reason their buxom blond singer has become the focal point for BEP hatas. Fergie scored a convincing summer hit with her first solo single, the bouncy “London Bridge,” but critics were looking the other way, preferring to praise Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado as epitomes of clever chart-topping. Yet it’s Fergie whose full-length comes closest to the masterpiece of contemporary pop that is Gwen Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

It’s pretty obvious Fergie was taking notes when BEP were opening on Stefani’s tour: The Dutchess closely follows the LAMB blueprint, and every Gwen song has its Fergie equivalent (“Luxurious” equals “Glamorous,” “Hollaback Girl” equals “London Bridge” and so on). But Fergie pulls it off because, like Stefani, she has an appealing, girl-friendly, no-nonsense persona built on years of hard work and (unlike Stefani, it seems) even harder living.

The real reason The Dutchess works as well as it does is because it gives the finger to genre purists. The attempts at reggae are wack (“Mary Jane Shoes” is like “No Woman, No Cry” but, you know, about footwear), the ballads and hip-hop touches wacker yet. But the album is completely coherent as a pop artifact, one made by someone who obviously loves giving her listeners a good time. It’s fluff, sure, but check back in a decade: I bet it’s Fergie who’ll still set off booty-shaking when she comes on the radio. — Elisabeth Vincentelli