Green Andy Reviews: Gwen Stefani - Love.Angel.Music.Baby.
A. ZIATS | New York, NY, USA | 10/04/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"She may be fabulously wealthy, a pop music icon, married to hunky Gavin Rossdale and have her own clothing line, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for Gwen Stefani sometimes, particularly when I listen to this album. It was fairly inevitable that she'd release an album on her own, as the rest of No Doubt were starting to look like afterthoughts ever since Stefani's guest appearance on Eve's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind", but her solo debut is such a ridiculous mix of terrific pop and crushing embarrassment (sometimes in the same song) that it's tough to listen to without cringing. There are almost a dozen producers involved in this album; couldn't someone have told her when her ideas were howlingly bad?
Speaking of producers, this is hardly the first time a big-budget pop record has had a long list of them, but there's no unifying vision to this record, despite Gwen's best efforts. So the thing plays like a mix tape where all the contributors happened to use the same singer by coincidence. Every song whips you in a brand new direction, completely ill-fitting with the track that came before, from the electro-rock of "What You Waiting For?" to the hyped-up Caribbean funk of "Rich Girl" to the minimalist pounding of "Hollaback Girl" to the new wave anthem "Cool", and so on. They're all fine songs (with Eve guesting on "Rich Girl", possibly hoping for the same career bump that Stefani got from her), and there are very few outright dead spots on the album, except for the uncharacteristically dour "Long Way to Go", but the album seems more like a handful of singles stitched together than a proper album. And man, those lyrics. Even by Christina Aguilera standards, these are seriously self-absorbed lyrics. In the case of "What You Waiting For?" it almost seems like Gwen read directly from her journal, not even bothering to fix it so it rhymes. Throughout the record, the words come across like first-draft scribbles, including her unending creepy odes to Japanese girls, and the less said about that, the better. While even in her No Doubt days the songs were largely autobiographical, having a full-time band around seemed to tighten up her lyrics and sharpen their focus a bit, because I imagine the group would have laughed her out of the room if she tried to pass any of these by them.
Okay, I'm being kind of mean. To end on a bright note, the individual songs generally are terrific, with lots of great beats and excellent melodies (particularly on the 80's flashback "Cool").Gwen is in fine voice throughout, and her subtle persona-change from band leader to club diva (begun with No Doubt's ROCK STEADY album) reaches its apex here. And maybe I'm being a crank for suggesting that an album needs to have internal consistency anyway. So yeah, when all is said and done, this is a fun listen. Just don't pay too close attention to the words."