Album: Gwen Stefani

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Gwen Stefani's appeal has always rested more in her status as style icon than in any intrinsic musical qualities in her band, No Doubt. Save for a couple of hit singles in 1997, they have generally, like the whole US ska revival, been greeted over here with a puzzled lack of interest. Despite - or perhaps because of - the array of A-list producers involved in Stefani's solo debut, there's little musical character to the album; just a series of borrowed styles she plays dress-up with: "Real Thing" is Gwen fronting New Order; "Bubble Pop Electric" and "Long Way to Go" are Gwen fronting OutKast; "Danger Zone" is Gwen fronting Depeche Mode; etc, etc. The band don't even have to be present, as long as the producer can effect a reasonable simulacrum of their style. The concept for the project was a kind of "guilty pleasures" homage to the cheesy Eighties electro-pop of her youth, and while the results will doubtless furnish plenty of chart fodder, there's little in the way of a moving experience. The best t

Gwen Stefani's appeal has always rested more in her status as style icon than in any intrinsic musical qualities in her band, No Doubt. Save for a couple of hit singles in 1997, they have generally, like the whole US ska revival, been greeted over here with a puzzled lack of interest. Despite - or perhaps because of - the array of A-list producers involved in Stefani's solo debut, there's little musical character to the album; just a series of borrowed styles she plays dress-up with: "Real Thing" is Gwen fronting New Order; "Bubble Pop Electric" and "Long Way to Go" are Gwen fronting OutKast; "Danger Zone" is Gwen fronting Depeche Mode; etc, etc. The band don't even have to be present, as long as the producer can effect a reasonable simulacrum of their style. The concept for the project was a kind of "guilty pleasures" homage to the cheesy Eighties electro-pop of her youth, and while the results will doubtless furnish plenty of chart fodder, there's little in the way of a moving experience. The best tracks are shuffled to the back of the pack - a cool-jazz instrumental mix of the single "What You Waiting for?", and the second of Andre 3000's tracks, "Long Way to Go". The latter's busy arrangement and its subject matter - interracial relationships - provide a glimmer of substance that throws the rest of the album into sharp, but shallow, relief.

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