Album Review: Gwen Stefani, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” (2004)

What do you do when you’re the lead singer of a successful, multi-platinum, Grammy-winning group? Make a solo album, I guess. At least, that’s what Gwen Stefani did.

Moving away from No Doubt for a “side project” (sadly enough, Stefani’s solo success seems like the end of No Doubt- they haven’t had a new release since 2001) Stefani paired with hip-hop producers likeDr. Dre, Andre 3000, and Dallas Austin to create an album of 80’s sounding dance tracks. For the most part, it worked fairly well.

The album starts off with the lead single, What You Waiting For? After a strange interlude, the beat comes in and it automatically makes me want to dance. Besides an infectious and fun beat, the song doesn’t have much else going for it. The lyrics are poorly written and annoying (“you’re still a super hot female/…take a chance, you stupid ho”), and this track is usually a skip.

The aforementioned Dr. Dre track comes courtesy of Rich Girl, featuring none other than the female rapper, Eve. This track was also released as a single, and saw a significant amount of airplay. A heavy beat with lots of synthesizers and keyboards drives the song, which is another of my least favorites on the album. Eve’s rap is better than the rest of the song, and the chorus (part of which is sampled fromFiddler On A Roof…weird, I know) becomes very repetitive after a few listens.

Finally, we reach the single that moved me to purchase the CD- the Neptunes produced Hollaback Girl. The song starts off with foot stomping and hand clapping and leads way to a catchy refrain (“A few times I’ve been around that track/So it’s not just gonna to happen like that/Because I ain’t no hollaback girl/I ain’t no hollaback girl”). Stefani even raps during the verses, which works a lot better than you’d think. All in all, this song is just really fun to dance and sing (especially when I’d aggravate my friends by singing “this stuff is bologna, b-o-l-o-g-n-a” over the bridge). This song reminds me of the time my youth group listened to this CD on the way to an out-of-town church function. Of course, since it was a church group and there were younger kids, we had to blur out the curse word, so we loudly sang “this SHOE is bananas” instead. So, if you have any children around while this is playing, just remember that the song is about your shoes.

Things slow down a bit with Cool. Stefani finally proves to us that she’s over her No Doubt bandmate (and ex-lover) Tony Kanal, with this track about finding friendship after a relationship has ended. The slow tempo works nicely, and Stefani’s vocals sound great.

CoolGwenStefani2

The album picks right up with Bubble Pop Electric, which is probably my favorite track on the album. The song starts off with fun bubble-popping sound effects (I’m guessing that’s where the name was picked up from), and we’re greeted by Stefani promising her date (Johnny Vulture…aka Andre 3000, whom we hear more from later) that “tonight is the night”. The song is filled with flirty innuendo (“Gonna speed it down and slow it up in the back seat/…Come pick me up I want a ride/Hurry, hurry come to me/Drive in movie/Drive in move me/Drive into me/..Take it to the back seat/Run it like a track meet”) and again, the fun and catchy beat makes it a standout track (though, I’m sure you could guess how well the lyrical content on this song went over with my youth group leader…oops!)

Stefani’s samples The Isley Brothers classic Between The Sheets for Luxurious, a laid-back track that talks about living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Crash continues the upbeat fun of Bubble Pop Electric with another loud and bouncy beat that includes more sexual allusion (“Drive back baby to me/Fast in your car/I’m here waiting/Crash into me real hard”). Serious would sound great in a roller rink, with it’s synthesized, completely 80’s beat, airy vocals, and carefree lyrics (“This love is serious (everybody knows I’m mad for you)/You get me seriously out of my mind/And I am so into us (not gonna let no one get hold of you)/Baby, baby”).

However, the album has three stinkers that truly drag it down. The first offender is Harajuku Girls, a track so ridiculous that I’m not even sure how it made it onto the album. There is no defining melody or chorus that makes it worth listening to, and I just want to say, “Okay, Gwen, we understand that you’re in love with the Japanese culture, but no one cares anymore at this point. Also, your voice is reallyannoying in this song. Also, shut up.” The Real Thing isn’t much better, with it’s ripped off Madonna-esque melody and vocals. Danger Zone could be an okay track (the chorus is simple and catchy) but producers Nelle Hooper and Dallas Austin don’t do much to make it stand out.

The album closes with Long Way To Go an unlikely duet with Andre 3000(Outkast). The song has a throbbing bass beat, and Stefani and Andre sing about interracial relationships and society’s ignorance towards them (“We’ve got a long way to go/When snow hits the asphalt, cold looks and bad talk come/We’ve got a long way to go/It’s beyond Martin Luther, upgrade computer”). Though the sentiment is nice and I can personally relate to the message, I don’t find this being one of my favorite tracks. The song seems too busy and overproduced for my taste, and even the inclusion of Dr. King’s I Have A Dreamspeech towards the end becomes a bit much.

Though drastically different from No Doubt’s music, Gwen Stefani’s solo debut, Love.Angel.Music.Baby, ends up coming off exactly like a No Doubt album; a disc of a few really good tracks, and a few really bad ones.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. What You Waiting For?
2. Rich Girl – (with Eve)
3. Hollaback Girl
4. Cool
5. Bubble Pop Electric – (with Johnny Vulture)
6. Luxurious
7. Harajuku Girls
8. Crash
9. The Real Thing
10. Serious
11. Danger Zone
12. Long Way To Go – (with Andre 3000)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgjkth6BRRY]
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