Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Gwen Stefani

Never one of the shyest or most retiring ladies in pop, it was always somewhat inevitable that Gwen Stefani would embark on a solo career. Exactly what the former No Doubt singer would do once she went it alone, however, was never quite as easy to tell.

Would it be more of the same slick R&B; that made 'Let Me Blow Ya Mind', 2001's collaboration with Eve, an international smash? Or maybe an insipid re-run through the ska-punk roots of her past? God forbid it could even take the form of a grunge rock partnership with hubby Gavin Rossdale. Fortunately, the answer turns out to be none of the above but rather 'Love. Angel. Music. Baby.' An ultra sleek and, it has to be said, generally impressive, 80s-inspired party record, featuring a whole host of top hip-hop producers and artists. Oh, and two members of New Order.

Opening track and lead single 'What You Waiting For?' pretty much sets the tone for all that follows. With its crisp blend of edgy 21C production and early 80s Madonna-esque pop being a successful formula that's later repeated on album tracks 'Cool' and 'Serious'. Whilst 'Hollaback Girl' (a trademark Neptunes hip-hop stomp), 'Danger Zone' (a fabulous upbeat mash up of the Material Girl, Blondie and New Order) and the Dre produced 'Rich Girl' all bring a much-needed element of diversity to the mix. Not to mention a fair few potential hit singles.

Things do go a bit downhill halfway through with the sickly sweet R&B; ballad 'Luxurious' and overly kitsch 'Harajuku Girls'. And it's fair to say that the closing Gwenie/Andre 3000 duet 'Long Way To Go' is never going to rank with the Outkast man's best work (it's actually a re-worked outtake from 'The Love Below' sessions). But from a total of twelve album tracks and two pointlessly tacked on bonus numbers there are at least seven good songs here. Which, considering the Greatest Hits compilation of her former/other band consisted of roughly 75% filler, is no bad ratio at all.

Richard Smirke

reviewed on 23 Nov 2004

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