The lead singer of No Doubt went solo.
Suggested first purchase/album: Love.Angel.Music.Baby.
Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (2004) -- No Doubt was a pretty cool Blondie for the 90s who put out pretty great singles. Gwen Stefani by herself works even better than her band, because all the ska/punk/testosterone/whatever trappings of that band are thrown off and we're left with something that's pure fun. A handful of producers were used on this album (including Dr. Dre, Andre 3000, The Neptunes, and No Doubt's Tony Kanal), and this is part of what makes each song interesting by itself, as well as part of the larger album. "Rich Girl" is the best use of Fiddler on the Roof ever. "Hollaback Girl" is even better than the previous cheerleader anthem "Mickey. " "Bubble Pop Electric" is another example of Andre 3000 being more Prince than Prince, and the blend of his style and Gwen's is great. "Crash" is the the best new roller skating song of the 00s. "Serious" is one of those songs that proves how important good choruses are. And finally, "Harajuku Girls": the centerpiece of the album, not only because it's in the middle of the album and because half of the other songs on the album refer to it, but also because of its statement of high style and concept, its gleeful and unashamed fetishism, and the serious treatment of something that you would think is essentially fluff--a serious treatment that makes this song and this album a serious kind of candy that's enjoyable but also important and unforgettable. Even a initially crappy slow jam like "Luxurious" grows on you after a while. This album is one of the best and most surprising of 2004, and it should hold up for years to come. [The album also comes in a deluxe edition featuring a fancy CD carrying case, a hardback book for the liner notes, and a silver lamb. Kinda cool.]
The Sweet Escape (2006) -- Instead of making another great album, Gwen Stefani put out just another album. The album itself seems to be an apology for it, with lyrics referencing Gwen having a baby, fans anxiously waiting for the next CD and her rushing to get this one out (it's only been two years and the singles have barely subsided, c'mon), and generally being self-referential in that same annoying way that rap music does, where the music has its head up its own ass, referring only to itself, instead of being original and having some meaning to the real world. So you get songs like "Orange County Girl," an embarrassing reprise of No Doubt's "I'm Just a Girl" crossed with "Jenny on the Block" and other "I'm still normal even though I'm a star" (whatever that means) songs (one of my least favorite sub-genres). Other turds include "We're Breakin' Up," showing that Stefani is just as obsessed with her cell phone as any fifteen-year-old. (Many other songs also feel like they were written by a teenager.) There's some okay stuff. "Wind It Up" is the only song worthy of being alongside the first album, using music from The Sound of Music in the same way that "Rich Girl" used Fiddler on the Roof. Normally this would seem like Gwen's stuck in a rut, using the same trick again, but it's actually refreshing here in an album that mostly sounds like every other album. "The Sweet Escape" is decent pop. "Yummy" is pretty good in that minimalist Neptunes sort of way and probably the second-best song on the album, though it has those annoying lyrics I talked about. In the end, this is the album I would have expected from Gwen Stefani back in 2004, the one I wouldn't have bothered buying, and now it's the one that probably points to things to come and to the theory that Love.Angel.Music.Baby was a fluke.
Copyright (c) Jun 2005 - Jan 2007 by Rusty Likes Music