Love Angel Music Baby
By: Eric Greenwood
Solo albums are somewhat gratuitous when your band is still fully functioning. Unless you're planning to redefine some obscure genre, what's the point, other than saturating the market with your ego? Gwen Stefani's venture into solo-land is not without suspicious motive. Her status in the pop domain was elevated to that of utter ubiquity three years ago amidst her recouped No Doubt hits, her duet with Eve on "Let Me Blow Your Mind", and her lead vocal on Moby's "South Side." So what could her goal be? World domination? Between her clothing line (L.A.M.B.), her hunger for movie stardom (The Aviator), and her slick pop aspirations, the aforementioned might not be so absurd.
Sadly, Love Angel Music Baby isn't the stuff that long careers are made of. It is pure fluff. And pretty awful fluff at that. Stefani's definition of sticking her neck out for art's sake is to allow slews of outside writers and producers do all the work for her. Like a foundering hip-hop protégée, Stefani taps every hot producer in the game, past and present, to guarantee her solo debut a wide enough audience to justify the effort. She's literally throwing everything at the wall, hoping at least something sticks. Her dilettantish attitude comes off as manipulative and contrived. Stefani tries to be all things to all people here, and it reaps very little reward for the listener.
The sole exception is the first single, the hiccupping, Lene Lovich-inspired "What You Waiting For?" If this album had even two more songs this immediate and catchy, then I'd stick my neck out for it, but, sadly, it's the only song worth listening to. Co-written by former Pink collaborator Linda Perry because Stefani, admittedly, can't do anything by herself, "What You Waiting For?" casually knicks the melody from Weezer's "Hash Pipe" in the verse, but it's a ticking time bomb in the chorus. Stefani is a hollow shell with a quirky voice and an eye for bad clothes. Ironically, the shallow insipidness of this album exposes more of Gwen Stefani than any No Doubt album to date. Without her bandmates, she's insecure, unconfident, and utterly directionless.
"Hollaback Girl" is moronic and embarrassingly tuneless. I'd quote the lyrics, but they're so bad, I almost feel sorry for her. A 35-year old woman singing about pom-poms and "talking shit" in high school betrays such a delusional self-image that it's hard not to be taken aback. And on top of that, The Neptunes' beats are clunky and the production is senselessly bombastic. "Cool" is retrofitted with stale synths and chugging guitars to be a feel good, post-break up classic but with dorkier lyrics than even Cyndi Lauper would dare.
"Bubble Pop Electric" almost puts this derailed train back on course. The beats are urgent and infectious, but once again the nonsensical fluff that Stefani spews from her mouth sounds so awkward it's hard to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the moment. "Harajuku Girls" is an inexplicably non-catchy non-song, despite the fact that Stefani's fetishistic obsession with these Japanese trend-whores is mildly intriguing. "Crash" carelessly revisits Stefani's blatant fondness for 80's pop, but not even longtime co-writer and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal can save her from lifeless retreads like these.
Love Angel Music Baby fails on every level. It lowers Stefani to the level of a Beyonce or a Janet or even a Mariah- plastic manufactured nonsense that you can dance to. And worse, it outs Stefani for the shallow star-fucker she is. I didn't think she was a genius or anything, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt for at least seeming genuine. She looks a lot smarter with her mouth closed.