"What an amazing time / what a family / how did the years go by? / now it's only me" are some of the most memorable lyrics on Gwen Stefani's dance cd, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." (or for short LAMB). Those words are about Gwen's musical life - without her band No Doubt.
"This is the first time in a long time that I actually don't know what's gonna happen next," Stefani says. "You think about it as a famous person. You think about how you're gonna end it. How you're gonna get away and have a normal life. I imagine my children are going to save me from my vanity and be my passion and fill whatever fears I have of the amazing time I'm having right now being gone. I don't want to drop off and not be on the radio or not be able to talk about myself for hours. I don't want it to go away. But at the same time, I never expected to be here in the first place."
However, Gwen doesn't seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. With the release of her new album LAMB a year ago, she seems to be doing just fine.
Her new disc starts off with the club hit "What You Waiting For?" (5/5). Although probably the least popular single off her disc, it's the best. Starting off with a short piano part and then transforming into a club-ready hit shows much of Stefani's musical knowledge - she knows what will work and what will not.
Gwen has recorded songs with many different artists before - Moby, Sublime, 311, Prince, and many others - but the most popular collaboration that she's ever done was with Eve, 2001's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind." The song not only went to #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, but it established Eve as a musical artist - and one with talent. Eve adds some more of her abilities to "Rich Girls" (4/5), a club anthem reminiscent of Gwen's earlier days with 3rd Wave Ska band No Doubt. The song starts out with the incessantly annoying, yet catchy chorus "na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na". Believe me, it stays in your head.
Next comes the Neptunes-produced song "Hollaback Girl" (3.5/5). Although it's one of the least complicated (musically) songs on the album, it was the one that brought her a number one hit. It has a trumpet riff also reminiscent of No Doubt, but a modern beat that fuses with the most popular chant of the year - "This *** is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s."
"Cool" (4/5) is one of the more catchy ballads on the disc, an almost totally digital track that best showcases the warmth and beauty of Gwen's voice - the most instantly recognizable of modern music - something that has only been outdone on 2001's "I Throw My Toys Around," a b-side on No Doubt's "Everything in Time" cd. But back to this song. This song is perhaps the most intimate track lyrically on this album. It's about Gwen and bandmate Tony Kanal's relationship, breakup, and friendship - and it makes a good song.
One of the most interesting songs that I've ever heard is the next track, "Bubble Pop Electric" (5/5) featuring André 3000's talented producer alter-ego, Johnny Vulture. This song is one of the most nonsensical and advertedly perverted songs in awhile - except for "My Humps," of course. This song, behind a- and descending (in pitch) literal bubble pops, there's random sound bytes that go along with the song - the song is about Gwen going out on a date, and Johnny, in the background, acts that out, as do the song's lyrics.
The next song, a ballad devoted to...money..., "Luxurious" (5/5) is the 5th and most likely final single off of the album. It features a high-pitched synthesizer riff and reminds one of the 80's...something that I'd rather forget, but regardless, this is a good song. Also one of the more vocally intimate songs on the album, this features one of Gwen's better vocal performances. One thing that probably cost a luxurious amount of money was the video for this song - go watch it.
"Harajuku Girls" (4/5) is a song devoted entirely to Gwen's obsession with the Japanese Harajuku culture - one that mixes second hand clothes with designer fashions. Gwen loves it very much, and the Harajuku girls/culture is mentioned several times throughout the album - one of the ongoing themes. The song features an interesting, dancable beat and music that is rather brilliant - especially the Japanese-styled flute riff. But what song about the Harajuku Girls would be complete without several cameos from them? The Harajuku Girls input several phrases in the song, and answer questions in Gwen's lyrics. One of the more interesting songs of the year.
Sound effects galore - "Crash" (5/5) is the most perverted song on the record. There's quite a few sexual references. The song uses several sound effects related to cars, including an engine turning on at the beginning of the song. But otherwise, this song is a digital heaven, with incredibly catchy synthesizer riffs. It shows off some of Gwen's more high-pitched vocals, but they don't sound Mariah Carey-esque. That would scare me very much.
"The Real Thing" (3/5) is an 80's dance hyperballad (circa Bjork). It even has members of New Order. As if we didn't expect that. "And you're the one I want / and it's not just a phase / and you're the one I trust / our love is the real thing" is just an example of the sappy romance lyrics. Somehow Gwen and her extensive team of producers gets this to work - this song would be better if it was on a different album, though; it doesn't seem to fit very well with the other tracks.
"Serious" (5/5) is produced by bassist bandmate Tony Kanal and is one of the better songs on the album. It takes an 80's dance beat and mixes it with a string melody - and it works wonderfully. "I think I'm coming down with something / I think I'm gonna need your medicine" is a rather provocative lyric on Gwen's part, but a memorable section of the song all the same. Tony Kanal needs to start producing more; this song wouldn't be that wonderful without him.
"Danger Zone" (5/5) is one of the more depressing songs on this album, not lyrically, but vocally. Just the effects put on Gwen's vocals make the song the darkest on the disk. The lyrics are rather provacative in some spots - "now we share the closet / you have let me come inside". I'm not sure whether or not this is metaphorical, symbolical, or literal. If it's literal, then I'm scared.
Perhaps the best song on LAMB, "Long Way to Go" (5/5) is the most danceable song on the record, and THE most important song on the record. Complete with some oriental, snake-charmer sounding flute thingy in this song, Gwen and André pose perhaps the most thought-provoking question asked in music for quite awhile-"What color is love?"
Quotes from Gwen's official site and Rolling Stone. Something I highly reccomend for you to do - read the lyrics to "Long Way to Go" at the following site:
Long Way to Go lyrics: www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/gwenstefani/longwaytogo.html
Gwen's site: www.gwenstefani.com
Rolling Stone: www.rollingstone.com