Gwen Stefani
The Sweet Escape
2006
C-



why the fuck are we here? Yes, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. sold multi-millions. But last time I checked, Gwen had absolutely no plans for a follow-up this soon. From all accounts, the only people left in the room are a nervously tittering Interscope in one corner (wait…Trail of Dead, Lloyd Banks, and Fergie aren’t recouping?) and a genuinely frightened Pharrell in the other (Only gold, big fella? Maybe it needed another six months.) Hell, even the Harajuku girls stowed away on a slow boat back to Japan months ago.

But here we are—again—hoping beyond hope for a single or two to sink our teeth into, one that we want to put in the 2006 or 2007 folder before we trash the rest and wash our hands of the whole thing. Well, I got news: it doesn’t work like that. L.A.M.B. had six singles. We’re going to be here for a while.

Honestly? It’s not a terrible place to be. Getting past the hot-or-not grades we’re inevitably headed for, let me just take a moment and say that Gwen Is Good. Good for the pop landscape. Good for Pharrell. Good for us. When “Wind It Up” is on the radio, it’s preventing something far less interesting from getting played. I don’t care how much payola it costs: this is a positive. I mean, in all seriousness: When was the last time you heard your high school’s marching band, theater department, and hottest girl crowding into the recording studio together?

Other possible singles: “Yummy” is the “Hollaback Girl” of The Sweet Escape. Pharrell brings the disco tetris so hard on this track that Gwen even rewards him at the end with a one-and-a-half minute outro. Before all that, though, she gets in this chorus:
I know you’ve been waiting
But I’ve been out making babies
And had the chef making donuts and pastries
It’s time to make you sweat
Sex and sugar is the flavor
Ovens and beaters and graters
Beats made of bongos and shakers
It’s time to make you sweat
Trust me, it’ll be 85420 on your karaoke remote in June 2007. Tony Kanal is back, by the way. He’s one-and-a-half for three: “Don’t Get It Twisted” is a Rock Steady outtake, “Fluorescent” has the good sense to bring in Angelo Moore on saxophone, and “4 in the Morning” is payback for the break-up. Speaking of guests, Martin Gore and that dude from Keane (not the fatty, not the guy who plays drums) both make appearances too. One is great and one is awful. Try to guess which.

L.A.M.B. had some truly execrable moments—and The Sweet Escape doesn’t disappoint there either. “Orange County Girl” sees her flowing over a beat previously earmarked for Jamie Kennedy, “Now That You Got It” is her best Beastie Boy imitation over a “1 Thing” rip, and the title track features Akon occasionally yelping “wooo-ooo, eeee-ooo!” Special kudos, however, go to the utter monstrosity that is “Breakin’ Up,” a Fruity Loops-aided ode to the cell phone. Sample lyric:
TELLMECANYOUHEARMENOW
TELLMECANYOUHEARMENOW
TELLMECANYOUHEARMENOW
TELLMECANYOUHEARMENOW
TELLMECANYOUHEARMENOW
WE’RE BREAKING UP!
Verdict: Björk for boring people is better than no Björk at all. No one listens to Gwen Stefani to hear her rap. Or sing a sentimental power ballad. In fact, if there’s a Gwen song that can’t be described by putting two (or more) genres together, I’d suggest skipping it altogether. Lucky for her (and Interscope and Pharrell), there’s enough here to feed the beast. What they’re feeding it, I’m not so sure. I just know it sure as hell ain’t bananas.



Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2006-12-06
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