It’s been roughly a decade since Fergie dominated the pop charts without the help of the Black Eyed Peas, and she wants you to know that she’s still “ambitious, still hungry” on “Hungry,” the opening track of her long-awaited sophomore effort, Double Dutchess. But like Gwen Stefani, who also broke ranks with her famous band in the mid-aughts and attempted a comeback at least five years too late, Fergie struggles to balance the new with the old throughout the album. Where Stefani’s raw confessionals helped distinguish This Is What the Truth Feels Like, though, Double Dutchess is stuck in the past.
The album’s first single, “L.A. Love (La La),” is a retread of “London Bridge,” notable mostly for the way Fergie crams three terrible accents—British, Jamaican, and French—into one bar, while “Save It Till Morning” aims for the acoustic-pop splendor of the singer’s biggest multi-format hit, “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal).” The bouncy, piano-driven “Like It Ain’t Nuttin’” and “You Already Know,” which samples Lyn Collins and James Brown by way of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, affectionately channel old-school hip-hop, but there’s nothing here as exhilarating or whimsical as The Dutchess‘s “Fergalicious.”
Lyrically, the songs on the album rely heavily on braggadocious hip-hop tropes. “M.I.L.F. $” is an aggro party track that finds Fergie splitting rapid-fire verses about the size of her bank account and her supposed ability to run the club. Conversely, tracks like “Just Like You” and “A Little Work” find a happy medium between hard and soft, with heavy beats, melodic pop hooks, and lyrics that aim to empower rather than boast. A handful of Caribbean-flavored songs, including the trop-house-infused “Enchanté (Carine)” and the breezy “Love Is Blind,” further elevate Double Dutchess, lending a fresh, modern twist to what too often feels like an old game.