(Photo Credit: ATRL)

Despite what some have said, and despite what others have said despite not even listening to Double Dutchess, Fergie’s long-awaited second studio album does not disappoint. In fact, it’s one of my favorite new albums released this year. And there’s been a lot of new music in 2017.

I’ve never really described myself as a huge fan of Fergie but I’ve always enjoyed her contribution to The Black Eyed Peas and, I’m sorry, if you didn’t blast “Big Girls Don’t Cry” for most of 2007 (and still don’t blast it from time to time now), we really can’t be friends. Not to mention the fact that I don’t know a single millennial who doesn’t know all the words to “Fergalicious,” and I’m pretty sure “Clumsy” is on a mixed CD I made recently that I keep in the car. All of this to say, Fergie set the stage for herself as a solo artist with her largely successful debut solo album The Dutchess, released in 2006. YES, 2006. It’s been 11 YEARS that people like me whose ears were intrigued by The Dutchess have been waiting for Fergie to release a follow-up record. Sure, she and the Peas were busy for a good 5 years following The Dutchess—but Fergie had been teasing and releasing new solo material since 2014 with promises that her second solo album was “on the way.” I for one lost a bit of interest. Other artists I like were giving me new albums in less time and I wasn’t a huge fan of the new singles Fergie first released over the course of 2014 to 2016. But when she finally announced that Double Dutchess, her long-awaited second studio album, was to be released on September 22, 2017, you bet your sweet bottom I was so happy I would finally get to listen to it.

I knew going in that Double Dutchess was going to have some weird contemporary hip-hop tracks that only Fergie can produce. Like, let’s call a spade a spade—she’s a hip-hop artist. I wasn’t expecting the latest revolutionary dance-pop album when I first downloaded it, but I was also hoping to hear a glimpse of the Fergie that gave us songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Clumsy,” and oh boy, does she ever. The album begins with a few bizarre hip-hop/rap-ish songs that, like I said, only Fergie can produce, but then we slowly start to hear the rawer, honest, and vocally talented Fergie we remembered from 2007. Bear in mind—not long before Double Dutchess finally dropped, Fergie and hunk hubby Josh Duhamel announced their separation after 8 years together. I didn’t think much of that at first in terms of the album, but one can only believe that they announced the news of their separation purposely before the album came out, because some of that raw and honest Fergie we get to become reacquainted with on Double Dutchess is for sure singing her way through some emotional turmoil—some of which we can only assume is about her marriage.

And when I say she’s singing her way through some emotional turmoil, I don’t mean that lightly. Without a word of a lie, Double Dutchess contains some of the most powerful and important songs I’ve heard this year. It starts with “Just Like You,” a slower, R&B-sounding track with the lyrics, “Oops, look what you made me do, I’m crazy just like you, I’m tainted just like you. Table set for two, look what you made me prove, I’m crazy just like you, I’m tainted just like you.” I was really taken aback by the subject matter, clearly about her marriage, because I really wasn’t expecting that. But I was pleasantly surprised—and the surprises would only continue from there. After that, our ears are blessed with a song called “A Little Work,” which is hands down one of the most important songs I’ve ever heard. It’s about mental health. It’s about your problems. It’s about my problems. It’s about dealing with those problems. It’s about how hard that is. It’s about how you are a warrior more than you know (that’s a lyric, I’m not that poetic). As I listen to this song more and more, I can’t help but close my eyes and smile at how important and groundbreaking its subject matter is. And yes, it’s by Fergie. I don’t know what the stigma surrounding Fergie is, perhaps it’s because she has this smutty and/or slutty quality to her (or so I’m told—more than one person has told me that) or maybe it’s because people associate her with Black Eyed Peas hip-hop and “Fergalicious,” but it’s time to let go of that vision. The Fergie we get to see on Double Dutchess is Fergie in all her glory, but with a new layer of emotional complexity that one can only applaud and commend her for sharing with the world through her artistry.

My other favorites from the album are “Life Goes On”—an upbeat, modern-day pop song about how no matter what you end up doing, at the end of the day, life goes on (the music video is also one of my new all-time favorites)—and “Save It Til Morning,” which is most assuredly the 2017 sequel to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (the people in the YouTube comments section agree with me so it must be true, OK). “Save It Til Morning” is about a couple—no names are given, but based on that song’s music video, we can’t help but assume it’s drawn from real life—who are constantly forced to save their issues until the morning, when the event with red carpets and cameras is over. With the news of Fergie and Josh Duhamel’s separation so fresh in our minds, one can’t help but think that “Save It Til Morning” is about them, and it just about breaks your heart. Well, at least mine.

Other highlights from the album that I think are worth mentioning are “Enchanté (Carine)”—another rather weird Fergie hip-hop song, but it features vocals from her young son Axl Jack, so you have to think it’s at least a little cute—and “Tension,” an up-tempo dance track which has already been hailed a bop by Gay Twitter, so again, it must be true. And, I will probably catch judgement for this, but “M.I.L.F. $,” most probably the weirdest hip-hop song on the album that was released as a single in 2016, has begun to grow on me. I’m starting to find it catchy. LOOK AT ME FUNNY ALL YA WANT, SWEETS (but, actually, if you read Fergie’s explanation of the song, it’s actually a female empowerment track, so I guess the music critics missed the memo on that one). Oh, and if you’re looking for clarification on what that whole Double Dutchess: Seeing Double visual experience is all about, Fergie merely filmed a music video for every track and put it together to make a visual experience for the album, to make up for lost time. It was actually quite impressive.

Overall, I think Double Dutchess is a very unique and well put together album that is authentically Fergie and was worth the 11-year wait. I can singlehandedly commend it for “A Little Work” alone, which I do think is one of the most important songs I have ever listened to and for which I am grateful Fergie put into words, but I do think that she does not disappoint in delivering some bops that are of the same caliber as the bops from The Dutchess. If you liked Fergie circa 2007, a.k.a. the “Big Girls Don’t Cry” era, I do recommend Double Dutchess. In my honest opinion, I think it comes through.