Let it be known that everything about Fergie is intentional, from the graphic swirl of her now grown-out acrylic nails (meant to evoke the print of Copacabana, from her recent Rio performance) to the length and two-tone dye job of her hair.
“I had my hair grown out since I got pregnant — I hadn’t cut it,” she says, wearing a Rodarte two-piece ensemble and seated next to a vase of calla lilies in the basement of Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel. “I just had no reason [to cut it] and I was like, ‘There has to be a reason now,’ because everything to me feels like it has to have a meaning.”
Eleven years since her debut solo album, “The Dutchess,” Fergie is back with a full-length album “Double Dutchess,” out Friday, and a complementing video for each song, released Wednesday evening. In her time from the spotlight she’s become a mother to four year-old Axl, and, yes, split from husband Josh Duhamel last week. The album is, to hear her tell it, a deeply personal expression of the duality of her personality, one that she showcases both through song and video. In addition to the music, Fergie tapped the likes of Giovanni Bianco, Mert and Marcus, Carine Roitfeld, Kendall Jenner, B. Åkerlund and Jonas Åkerlund to bring to life each song.
“It was such a magical moment when we shot that first video ‘Just Like You’ – it was just this moment in Paris, it was all very black and white, and I was in Paris, and was just feeling like this really lucky girl, to be able to have this dream team,” she says.
Bianco, the Italian creative director who has done campaigns for Miu Miu and Versace and collaborated with Madonna on her 2012 tour, pushed Fergie to tap back into the artist she was all those years ago, when she ruled the charts with The Black Eyed Peas and her solo songs.
“Giovanni really helped me get back in touch with my tomboy side, my hard side, because I had Axl…I had done the music and I was fine in the studio, but he was like, ‘You know what, you have this thing inside of you – you have kitten, and that is very natural, but you also have the boyish side,’” she says of the video for “You Already Know,” featuring Nicki Minaj. “And for ‘Double Dutchess,’ because having a son [I was] very motherly, but it was about pulling that tough side of me back out. Instead of Dickies and more casualwear, it was men’s wear and that kind of structured type of thing.”
For her more sensual, softer side, she went directly to Roitfeld, whom she had known for nearly 10 years but never worked with before.
“She’s a legend — she knows what she wants, she’s very detail-orientated, which I love — and very chic,” Fergie says, adding that Roitfeld even gifted her a pair of her own Gianvito Rossi thigh-high boots. “For me, I like to learn from people like her, to elevate my style. Like I learned from her with hosiery, it was very important to have the line straight up the back of the leg. So now anytime with the hosiery, the line must be meticulously straight! Even how to say ‘oui’ — like a chic Parisian girl. [My song] ‘Enchanté’ is an homage to her, because she would teach me these chic little things and talk about Brigitte Bardot and such. You can’t help but be attracted to that and learn from it — I just love being a sponge in all of it.”
The record’s most powerful song, Fergie says, is “A Little Work,” the video for which was directed by Jonas, runs for over 11 minutes and features her son.
“Jonas found this church that was going to be torn down very soon, and all this amazing graffiti that was on there,” she says. “Part of that whole song is just a battle in your mind about overcoming negativity and anything that’s in your way, and just powering through that and finding your tools to overcome that, whatever they may be. And being in that church, there was a presence and it was thick. It was a moment, for sure.”
And though it’s been 10-plus years since she was last revving up for an album release, Fergie strongly believes that this is her moment.
“It was like this epic quest that I started and had to finish,” she says. “It’s like putting together an outfit — you have one piece from a high-end designer, one piece from a low-end designer, one from a vintage store, and there are 10 colors going on and somehow you throw it on together and they all go — that’s what this is,” she says. “It’s the mismatched outfit that worked.”
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