The Dutchess

Artist: FergieTitle: The DutchessRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kathy Iandoli

The fact that duchess is spelled incorrectly in the album title could very well be an omen of what's to come from Fergie's solo debut The Dutchess (Interscope). Saturated with early 80's spandex rap mixed and attempts at soulful coos, The Dutchess sounds more like a cover album than an effort at Fergie finding herself.

The popstress turned diva started on the Disney series Kids, Inc. Over a decade and a half later, Fergie dropped the "Stacey" in her name to join the contemporary Hip-Hop outfit Black Eyed Peas. The group's international status led to the inevitable question of when Fergie would pull a Gwen and take a stab at solitude.

For an artist serving best as a hook enhancer, a solo album requires undivided attention. Instead, Fergie opted to record on the road while touring with the Peas, an evident catalyst for the inconsistency in the work. The Dutchess is choppy and full of songs thrown together with obvious influences from the artists on Fergie's iPod. The only saving grace is the production of, combined with the unfortunate addition of his bandmate's tinny vocals.

Fergie poses as a modern-day Pat Boone, stylistically "borrowing" from worthier artists who have slipped under the commercial radar. "Fergalicious", a blatant remake of JJ Fad's "Supersonic", delivers a rapping Fergie with the questionable line, "Fergalicious-but I ain't promiscuous/And if you were suspicious, all that sh*t is fictitious." If the latest rap beef were to include Nelly Furtado vs. Fergie, Hip-Hop would surely die tomorrow. The single "London Bridge," an M.I.A.-meets-Missy jack, provides a horny bass heavy humdrum better suited for a happenin' elevator. Don't bother checking the liner notes, that isn't Esthero on the bridge. In fact, a considerable portion of the album mimics much of Esthero's catalog by the admitted Esthero fanatic.

The appropriately titled "Clumsy" boasts awkward sweetness, while "Pedestal" abuses the London bridge theme amidst Blu Cantrell-style belting. Fergie tries out for American Idol on the pitchy "Finally" with the opening line, "Ever since I was a baby girl I had a dream." Ludacris' phoned-in verse on "Glamorous" lacks luster, albeit forgivable since he probably thought he was doing another remix to Gwen Stefani's "Luxurious."

"Mary Jane Shoes," "Velvet," and "Boys Don't Cry" begin the same way as Esthero's "That Girl" and "This Lullaby", so check the originals for how they were supposed to sound. If The Dutchess serves no other purpose than to bridge the gap between the mainstream and lesser-known talent, then it's at least succeeded at something. Neither a balladeer nor an MC, the only hope for Fergie is to figure out who she truly is before setting foot in a recording booth again.