|Gwen Stefani - Love. Angel. Music. Baby|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 23 November 2004|
Super pop! That’s what you hear and that’s what you get with Gwen Stefani’s first solo effort. Finally having made her break (at least temporarily, who knows? It’s certainly been a point of much discussion in the music world) from her No Doubt bandmates (with one major exception), Love Angel Music Baby is a pop explosion that combines ‘80s synthesizers and beats with modern tools and talents to create an overall feeling of dance nostalgia and nausea.
Stefani has reached the point that Madonna had in the early ‘90s. She has figured out who she is and is capitalizing on it in her own particular way. She has her own attitude and style, but it’s hard to fight the feeling that there’s no real way to tell just how much she has to do with the sound of her album. Hence the mix of not great performance with good sound. The people who worked on the album all know what they’re doing and have been around: Nellee Hooper, Dr. Dre, Dallas Austin, Andre 3000 and No Doubt-er Tony Kanal. Even though all of them, and others, produced at least one or more tracks on this album, the sound of each track doesn’t vary tremendously. Of course, considering who all of these people are and the type of music they do, that’s not a big shock. What ends up happening is a consistent high quality sound that, while impactful as pure hip-pop, gets kind of annoying, because there’s nothing holding Queen Stefani back. She definitely works better with a band around her that has its own musical agenda. Here she’s been given free reign to overindulge herself with a sound that sounds like Madonna, Wham, Madonna, Prince, Naked Eyes, Madonna and a sort of Black Eyed Peas/early Public Enemy mix. Even Gwen, as she simply likes to be called now (another one-name pop star), confessed that she wanted her solo dance album to be along the lines of Madonna’s In The Groove, which was a dance remix record that my sister is proud to have on vinyl.
Many of the tracks are clearly tributes to certain groups or songs, like “Cool,” which is an ‘80s throwback that sounds like a mix of Culture Club, Naked Eyes and Wham, if you can believe it (sounds like a weird rendition of “Heartbeat” off of Make It Big; look it up if you need to). “Hollaback Girl” is both amazingly frustrating and endearingly catchy. The same bits that scream “Turn me off!” are the very same bits that smoothly say, “Well, isn’t this nice?” Although the lyrics can definitely go. “Crash” and “Harajuku Girls” epitomize the word “fun,” but they also seem a bit overindulgent.
“The Real Thing” is a pop ballad that really smacks of Madonna. She even sounds like Madonna in the early “Borderline” and “Material Girl” era, because we all know Madonna sounds very different now vocally. This is a nice little song that makes good use of Stefani’s range and poutiness. “Serious” has a little Sheila E./Lisa Lisa thing going, with a great beat that shakes the booty to the fresh and fruity. I have no idea what that means, but it about sums up the lyrics in this track and throughout the album. Do lyrics even matter with pop/hip-hop/disco dance fusion? Not really.
By the way, if you don’t know about any of these ‘80s groups I’ve mentioned, get Love Angel Music Baby album and then look them up.