Eleven years later, the Dutchess returned with her sophomore solo album, Double Dutchess, this past September after several world tours and albums with the Black Eyed Peas, marriage, separation, and motherhood.
The Dutchess of 11 years ago is in some ways a different artist from today's Double Dutchess. Fergie says she's learned how to be "more in charge of everything." She created her own label, Dutchess Records, with BMG this year and executive-produced her album and the accompanying visual album, Seeing Double. Adding her inability to "spend 12 hours at a time" in the studio now that she has a son, Fergie acknowledges the difficulty of executing a comeback at full force.
"I really love [being hands-on]; however, it takes so much out of you," she says. "It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love."
Fergie, who will perform at the Fontainebleau this Saturday, emphasizes that her songwriting process and values have not changed. "[I'm] the same girl who always wanted to get on that stage, really connect with the crowd, and have a great show,” she says. “Either you laugh, you cry, you get angry, but whatever you feel... I want you to feel something.”
Double Dutchess has received mixed reviews from critics for its perhaps overly ambitious scope. The album covers a lot of ground to make up for the decade she spent away from solo work. Its versatility, however, is its strength. The music and its visual component are over-the-top in a way that demands attention rather than requests it. "The themes on the album are very much the dark side and the lighter side of me, the harder side versus the soft," she explains.
Fergie confesses she cared deeply "about presenting this album as an authentic representation of who I am fully, to reintroduce myself." Then she briefly raps the intro from Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement" and laughs. From the dark comedy of "Love Is Blind" to the banger single "You Already Know" with Nicki Minaj to Fergie's powerful, candid reflection on her struggle with mental illness in "A Little Work," Double Dutchess fits several albums into one. Whereas "Big Girls Don't Cry" was the rallying cry of The Dutchess, "Love Is Pain" is its analog, acknowledging that even grown women cry.
Consider the single "M.I.L.F. $" from last summer and your immediate expectations. The song's music video has all the trappings of Regina George's mom from Mean Girls but also injects commentary about the way society views successful women who are mothers. "Of course, once you become a mom, in old-fashioned thinking, that’s all you are,” she laughs. “You can’t have a career at the same time... and how dare you want to feel sexy once in a while?”
Fergie clarifies that her reclamation of the term "MILF" replaces the original meaning with "Moms I'd like to follow." Her video stars often-criticized famous mothers such as Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Ciara. It presents them in vignettes that reclaim power through success and sexuality. "There are more subtle — dare I say it — role-model messages in the video," Fergie laughs. "You might want to follow a mom because she’s a teacher or because she’s planting an eco-friendly garden and giving back to the Earth.”
Remembering the madness before motherhood, when her life was dominated by recording and touring, Fergie mentions the importance of landing in one place so she could "Zen down and get in the mode of having a baby, stripping everything away so I could learn what that meant.”
Her 4-year-old son, Axl, will join her in Miami this weekend. Besides returning to the home of her favorite football team, the Dolphins, as a co-owner ("Go, Fins!" she says) and performing at what she calls the "classic Miami staple," the Fontainebleau, Fergie is looking forward to a "mommy night" in Halloween costumes with her son.
"I love Miami. It's a very special place for me," she says. "I can’t wait to see everybody by the pool, have a good time, and party like only Miami knows how to party."
Fergie is concentrating on promotion and family this year and will embark on her official supporting tour of the album next year. After a decade-plus hiatus from solo work, Fergie is hard to keep up with now. In fact, Fergie can hardly keep up with Fergie. She's still Fergalicious, definitely.
BleauLive Presents Fergie. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 28, at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4641; fontainebleau.com. Tickets cost $75 to $129.