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Gwen Stefani
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    Gwen Stefani

    1st 2nd

    Love Angel Music Baby 6 ( 2004 )
    What You Waiting For / Rich Girl / Hollaback Girl / Cool / Bubble Pop Electric / Luxurious / Harajuku Girls / Crash / THe Real Thing / Serious / Danger Zone / Long Way To Go

    Former No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani surrounds herself with a swathe of producers and musicians and a variety of guest artists. No Doubt never sounded at all like this album sounds, I suspect she's going for an entirely different audience. One of the key tracks is tellingly titled 'Bubble Pop Electric', it sums up the sound overall of this debut album of hers. This is a very modern sounding production, whether it will stand the test of time is another matter. 'What You Waiting For' is likely to be the kind of song still played on the radio in five or six years time, but will it be received as a warm, slightly embarrasing piece of nostalgia or will people just think it sounds desperately uncool? There's no denying it's a strong piece of production or that Gwen suddenly seems to be the new Madonna. She's got the spirit and she's got the image. Still, I do have my doubts about the longevity of the likes of 'What You Waiting For', or the Missy Elliot styled 'Hollaback Girl'. As I said, a very modern production. 'Rich Girl' is irritating in the extreme, based on 'If I Were A Rich Man' and featuring rap spots, this is just average RnB of the kind any number of other artists could have produced. Gwen Stefani being 'a name' no doubt ( ha, ha! ) helped her attract the calibre of producers and musicians she's had the privilege to work with here. An album that's firmly modern pop music and doesn't really reach out or try to be anything else. There's nothing wrong with that, of course.

    The first four or five song on the album are generally pretty strong pop music, after which the album takes a dive, somewhat. The second half is pretty patchy, bar the excellent 'Crash' and the Andre 3000 produced 'Long Way To Go'. Everything these Outkast guys touch ends up sounding like Outkast, particularly the productions of Andre 3000. Very, very distinctive stuff and a highlight of the album. Inbetween 'Crash' and 'Long Way To Go' we get the very mediocre euro-pop of 'The Real Thing', the bouncy Kylie Minogue sounding 'Serious', which isn't serious sounding at all and the not much better 'Danger Zone'. A piece of pop-fluff then, this 'Love Angel Music Baby'. I was never particularly a fan of No Doubt but I still expected at least the album tracks here to be better than they are. I can't imagine this being an album people are going to listen to for months and months on end. Gwen spent a long time making this album, if she's gonna vanish for a couple of years at the end of 2005 and reappear say, 2007, how many people will still be listening to 'Love Angel Music Baby'? These particular set of songs, as commercially minded as they are, seem to suggest not that many people will be anxiously awaiting new material. If its good, people will buy it anyway, of course. She'll return in a blaze of publicity, very much a girl of whatever time she happens to be inhabiting.

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    The Sweet Escape 5 ( 2006 )
    Wind It Up / The Sweet Escape (featuring Akon) / Orange County Girl / Early Winter / Now That You Got It / 4 in the Morning / Yummy (featuring Pharrell Williams) / Fluorescent / Breakin' Up / Don't Get It Twisted / U Started It / Wonderful Life

    The singer's second solo set features production courtesy of Nellee Hooper, The Neptunes, Swizz Beatz and Dave Stewart. First things first. Why am I reading articles and reviews saying she's made 'a hasty return'. Is that just trying to excuse her a poor album? Two years is not a quick time period between albums. It's about right for an artist of her standing. Three or four years down the line, there's the risk nobody will give a damn about her and any commercial potential gained from the hits from 'Love Angel Music Baby' will all be lost. True, 'The Sweet Escape' sounds exactly the same as 'Love Angel Music Baby', but so what? That's not the main reason to dislike it, nor the fact the songs appear half developed. So were the songs from the debut. This all has nothing to do with 'only' taking two years off. It's to do with the fact both the songs and the album as a whole aren't very good. That's it. It's not rocket science! Potential hits, then? Well, we've already had the hideous mess that is 'Wind It Up, complete with mentions of goatherds amidst much yodelling. It's a novelty pop hit, very glossy, although not at all sexy or cool. Another thing. Ninety ( count em' ) assorted musicians, engineers and AR people were apparently required to put this album together. Ninety! Interesting names among the list include Keane, who were responsible for writing and playing on 'Early Winter'. Martin L Gore of Depeche Mode plays guitar somewhere on the album. Half a dozen ( literally ) different keyboard players are credited. The albums only got twelve songs. What, two songs per keyboard player?? What does all of this mean? Well, why not get yourself a group of five or six musicians and just the ONE producer and ONE engineer and do it. Why? Well, she clearly doesn't want to be in a group ( eg No Doubt ) so much, she'll do anything to avoid having to work with just the same group of people ( whoever they might be ) for any period of time. Maybe she just gets bored easily? Who knows.

    What I was I talking about? Oh, potential hits. 'Early Winter' sounds like standard Keane fare, but Gwen does bring something different to the mix purely through her delicate and fairly sweet vocal. The albums title tune is pure-pop, 'Yummy' feat Pharrell' is the attempted 'Hollaback Girl' styled rnb stomper. 'Flourescent' is the attempted 80s/new wave soundalike. For an album produced by so many different creative minds, for 'The Sweet Escape' to sound average and boring is actually something of a crime. The songs i've just mentioned are palatable, the closing 'Wonderful Life' is kind of nice. The album doesn't hang together very well, although that's hardly a surprise and Gwen already sounds tired of her own formula. Using The Neptunes production is all very well, but Nelly Furtado has already done so recently and produced a far, far better commercially minded album with 'Loose'. If you're looking for credible yet commercial pop, buy that instead.

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    this page last updated 14/01/07

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