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The Duchess of R&B: Fergie
Fergie, one of the world’s hottest and most talented women, is a hip-hop artist who recently embarked on her own solo singing career. This California native was born on March 27, 1975 as Stacy Ann Ferguson. She is best known as the lead singer of hip-hop supergroup Black Eyed Peas, but Fergie was no stranger to the entertainment industry before them: she appeared on TV in Kids Incorporated and Great Pretenders. She was also a member of girl group Wild Orchid of multi-award nominated Talk to Me fame.
Little is known of Fergie’s younger years, other than she had a strict Catholic upbringing that had little impact on her decision to run with several Mexican gangs in her teenage years. Around the age of 18, Fergie rebelled against her Catholic past, experimented with drugs and sex, and men and women. Her first musical group, Wild Orchid, didn’t achieve the fame Fergie had hoped they would. When their record label refused to release their third album, Fergie traded her career with Wild Orchid in for an addiction to crystal meth. In interviews, Fergie later blamed the pressures of being a child star on her drug addiction. Luckily, Fergie was treated for her addiction and, in 2003, landed a gig singing for then-underground group Black Eyed Peas.
Thanks to Fergie, the Black Eyed Peas rose from the underground scene to their very own spot in music history. Along with fellow band members will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo, Fergie appeared on 2003’s mega-bestseller Elephunk, which brought us the anthems Shut Up and Where is the Love. 2005’s Monkey Business fared even better, spawning such classics as Don’t Phunk with My Heart, Pump It, and the band’s signature song, My Humps. My Humps was a sexually suggestive song, and the controversy surrounding it was hard to miss. Fans grooved to it all over the world; in 2005 and 2006, for example, it could be heard blasting at top-volume from many a souped-up Honda Civic across North American suburbs. Music critics were less enthusiastic. The All Music Guide, for example, hailed it as “one of the most embarrassing rap performances of the new millennium.” The only point everyone could agree on was that Fergie, decked out in short shorts and plenty of ice, looked damn fine in the video. Nobody could deny that Fergie’s “lady lumps” were just as lovely as the song proclaimed.
During her career with the Black Eyed Peas, Fergie had the chance to tour with coveted musicians, such as Christina Aguilera and The Pussycat Dolls. Black Eyed Peas proved that they were as generous as they were talented: they created the PeaPod Foundation, a charity that helps ease the suffering of children around the world.
The group has sold over 29 million copies of their music worldwide. But Fergie had solo dreams on the brain. Black Eyed Peas fans worldwide prepared to mourn the loss of their musical idols, but Fergie told them all to rest assured: she wasn’t leaving the group; she’d just be doing her own thing on the side, as well. 2006 saw the release of her first solo album, The Dutchess. Its title was a reportedly intentionally misspelled tribute to another famous Fergie: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.
Fergie rocked the world with The Dutchess’ first hit single, London Bridge. The song aroused controversy due to its enthusiastic use of profanity and its celebration of binge drinking and provocative dancing, but Fergie fans applauded her bold and creative venture into solo-careerdom. Semanticists, meanwhile, struggled to decipher what exactly the London Bridge in question was analogizing. One popular theory maintains that London Bridge is a metaphor for Fergie’s clothes, which would mean that her song carried a sexually explicit meaning: every time the man in the song referred to simply as “you” comes around, Fergie wants to take her clothes off and indulge in a sexual encounter. Others suggest that London Bridge may actually refer to Fergie’s defenses: try as she might, she simply can’t resist the charms of the guy in question. Fergie reportedly had only this to say on the matter: “I've been getting way too into myself nowadays and I just wanna have fun with as many men as I can possible."
One online source claims that Fergie herself said that a London Bridge refers to two couples indulging in sexual relations in the same bed, eventually forming a kind of bridge. (The source didn’t elaborate, unfortunately, leaving online readers all over the world to their own imaginations, and influencing several online writers to drop the issue and cover Beyonce’s new single instead.) Still others insist that London Bridge is just a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Fergie’s favorite nursery rhyme.
Equally cryptic as the song’s title is the single’s cover: if the song is called London Bridge, why is London’s Tower Bridge featured on both the cover and in the music video? Fergie and several people who worked on the video claimed that this image was deliberate. The London Bridge is architecturally bland and has disappointed tourists from all over the world for centuries. The Tower Bridge, meanwhile, is beautiful, well-known, and often mistaken for London Bridge anyway. When education critics blasted Fergie for perpetuating the widespread problem of youthful ignorance in the Western World, Fergie’s fans retailiated by pointing out that all we had was Fergie’s word: the bridge switch may very well have been an honest mistake that Fergie and her camera crew were now too embarassed to admit.
Other hit singles so far have included Glamorous and Fergalicious. Fergalicious set world records for most online sales in a week. Mothers worldwide have praised it over its celebration of healthy self-image. The lyrics to Fergalicious, Fergie’s tribute to herself, brim with self-confidence other stars have tried, and failed, to promote to a teenage audience: Fergie repeatedly describes herself as “delicious” and notes that men “be lining down the block just to watch what I got.” Skeptics point out that the song has several sexual undertones—the line “I keep on repeating how the boys wanna eat it”, for example. These claims didn’t manage to prevent Fergalicious from peaking at #2 on the Billboard chart, but they may have had some pull in the U.K., where the song was not released as a single at all.
Sadly, this hip-hop goddess has been recently introduced to the pitfalls of a solo career: media intrusiveness. As Fergie’s success soars, so to do the number of gossip stories about her. A popular recurring myth is that Fergie is pregnant. Frequent rumors about Fergie’s impending motherhood tend to result from her ever-fluctuating weight. The full figure that has been praised by feminists, fitness and nutrition consultants, and horny men worldwide worked against Fergie when it inspired rumors that she and longtime beau, Josh Duhamel, were expecting. Even Fergie’s own grandmother got in on the hype, calling a bewildered Fergie to congratulate her. Fergie cleverly warded off reporters by promising that, in the even that she did become pregnant, she would call a huge press conference and there would be no mystique surrounding the issue. However, the Fergalicious songstress admitted to being hurt and stressed out by the rumors. For one thing, tabloids saying Fergie was pregnant was like saying Fergie had gotten fat. For another thing, Fergie had read about her nonexistent pregnancies so many times in the tabloids that she now fears when she finally does enter the family way, it won’t be as special. Will this hip-hop diva’s dreams of motherhood be tainted by sleazy tabloid speculation? Stay tuned…
Not surprisingly, music is not the only domain in which Fergie receives recognition. The ultimate authority on feminine beauty, the magazine Maxim, awarded Fergie the prestigious Number 36 position on its Hot 100 Women of 2006 list. Unlike the controversy surrounding her song lyrics, no one is disputing this particular honor.
Not only is she sexy and talented, but Fergie can apparently do no wrong. Her public image appeared to be in danger at the 2005 San Diego Street Scene Festival where, during a Black Eyed Peas performance, Fergie urinated on stage. Her PR people worked overtime, trying to come up with excuses, the most popular being that the mysterious liquid was simply yellowish sweat. Fergie herself, however, casually admitted to having had a few too many drinks before the show and simply not being able to contain herself. Apparently, honesty—along with nonchalance—really is the best policy. No one seemed to mind about Fergie’s brief bout with bladder control issues. The event has since been shelved on the rarely-opened vaults of pop gossip history.
Recently, another musical figure threatened to upstage Fergie. Alanis Morrissette recorded a parody of the Black Eyed Peas’ classic song My Humps. In this parody, Alanis Morrissette sang an acoustic version of My Humps, passionately belting out the song’s most pertinent lyrics: “I’m a get, get, get, get you drunk, Get you love drunk off my hump.” Her parody video, in which she clearly mocked Fergie’s clothes, style and tendency to touch herself on camera, was one of the top-searched item on YouTube. Rather than cat-fight, Fergie good-naturedly sent Alanis Morrissette a bum-shaped cake inscribed, “Alanis, you’re a genius. Love, Fergie.” This gesture proved that not only is Fergie an exceptionally talented singer and beautiful woman, she’s also a damn good sport.