Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Won The War: Gwen Stefani vs. Fergie

This is a series inspired by a tweet from perpetual lightning rod for controversy Azealia Banks when she inferred that although Michael Jackson won the battle, Prince won the war. This will be my take on which two rivals in packaging in the U.S. Music Industry, won the war in terms of longer success.

The much overdue Round 6 of this series pits No Doubt lead singer, coach of The Voice and pop star in some regard, Gwen Stefani against Black Eyed Peas vocalist and pop star in some regard, Fergie. Both had some high moments in their solo careers before they realized their shelf life belongs with their bands. Yet as always, this question remains...

In longevity terms, who merely won the battle...and who Won the War?

As of the end of 2014, Gwen Stefani has 2 (going on 3) albums to her name; the last proper released one being the 2006 released The Sweet Escape. Fergie just started her second album but has the 2006 released The Dutchess to her name. Here's their charting album peaks from highest to lowest...

Gwen Stefani
- The Sweet Escape peaked at #3
- Love. Angel. Music. Baby. peaked at #5

- The Dutchess peaked at #2

Due to the fact that these two have made something of a name for themselves, radio has played their songs every now and again. In terms of longevity when was their last #1 hit on the Hot 100?

*Reminder: Hot 100 ranking does matter if you're absolutely looking for a gauge of where an artist is in terms of popularity*

Gwen's sole #1 hit was the 2005 earworm "Hollaback Girl". 9 years and 2 albums ago...yikes. Fergie's had 3 #1 hits, the last being the 2007 earworm "Big Girls Don't Cry".

The last Top 10 hit? If using the 6-10 traditional scale, Gwen's last Top 10 was the GOD AWFUL "Wind It Up" which peaked at #6. If using the 2-10 variant, Gwen's last Top 10 is "The Sweet Escape" ft. Akon which peaked at #2. Either way, 8 years and 1 album ago...ooof.
Fergie's last Top 10 on the traditional scale can't apply. Using the variant scale, her last Top 10 was "Clumsy" which peaked at #5. 7 years and one album ago...not all the better considering Gwen has 2 albums before 2014.

While acting is considered for this, Gwen has mainly played herself and hasn't had a leading lady role. Fergie on the other hand has tried her hand at acting...with her most famous line being "Linus, you're a sweet baboo." Yes, Fergie played Sally Brown in two Peanuts videos...O_O

Musically, there are naturally some weak points in an artists' career when say...a lead single doesn't go to #1 or released singles chart really low. These are the positions at the lowest of Gwen and Fergie's careers...

Gwen's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single: "What You Waiting For" at #47 on the Hot 100

- Lowest Charting Released Single: "4 in the Morning" at #54 on the Hot 100

Fergie's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single: "L.A. Love (La La)" at #27 on the Hot 100

- Lowest Charting Released Single: "L.A. Love (La La)" at #27 on the Hot 100

Their nadirs tell differing stories. Gwen's nadirs came in terms of initial reception and flat out commercial failure. "What You Waiting For" for all of her J-POP influence, left an all too divisive field in people's minds. "4 in the Morning" failed because despite the public forgiveness with allowing her to have a second album [which mind you charted higher than her debut], simply did nothing to service her to keep the momentum going.
Oddly enough her new song "Baby Don't Lie" was almost less of a success as lead single than "What You Waiting For" even though the latter kicks the former in the teeth in quality.

Fergie's nadir is well deserved for 2 reasons. One reason being is that an inability to keep momentum even after so many years can ruin all future efforts at a solo career. At first, she was the clear winner against Gwen with five Top 5 singles vs. Gwen's 3 Top 20 singles not counting the lead. Yet for whatever reason (, she was unable to recapture the solo magic that helped her ass in the beginning. The other reason is that "L.A. Love (La La)" is horrendous and irredeemable.

Incidentally, "Baby Don't Lie" and "L.A. Love (La La)" were the comeback into solo forays of both singers. Both songs suck but for whatever reason Fergie's song ended up charting longer and higher than Gwen's. Yet a variable has salvaged Stefani's reputation in music. The thing that has her better liked than Fergie by miles on end. The bands they're with.
No Doubt despite recent mediocre at best success with "Settle Down" and the 2012 album Push and Shove peaking at #3, they retained better vibes on their last work than the Black Eyed Peas and their last album, the 2010 released The Beginning which missed the Top 5 of albums. That 3-4 year gap Fergie was subjected to should've resulted in better music being made (It's a valid point even if it's Fergie. Go with me on this.)
That same gap of 2-3 years can apply to Stefani as well even though she managed to retain her ska meets J-POP influences while Fergie went from "urban" to...whatever the hell "L.A. Love (La La)" called for in musical aesthete.

Now for the final points: iconic singles AKA, the one single people know is by that artist.

Gwen has "Hollaback Girl". Watch any goddamn countdown show of music [VH1, Fuse, etc.] and this song is guaranteed to appear relatively high.

Fergie? At best, "London Bridge" mainly because people were wondering this much: "What the fuck is she talking about in that song?" "Big Girls Don't Cry" might get just as much attention, but in terms of ubiquity, "London Bridge" got the job done a lot better.

For posterity both may have had at least a #1 hit but have come to realize that for better and worse, their bands define them. For Gwen, she's the lead singer. For Fergie, she's been forced to put up with when he cared enough to sick anything onto the public.

One is no doubt [pardon the pun] a more charismatic celebrity figure than the other; the other managed to peak higher than the other commercially in round 1; one actually showed up to round 2 and won unopposed; the other had her pitiful comeback single defeat her opponent but at a cost...

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