Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape”

Gwen Stefani / The Sweet Escape / December 05, 2006
01. Wind It Up / 10. Don’t Get It Twisted
12. Wonderful Life

While I sit here, waiting impatiently for the new Ayumi album to leak (it’s released in eight days and still remains more elusive than that guy who stood you up and whom you’ve never heard from since. I pretend he died), I am at least gifted with the new Gwen Stefani album. To say expectations were high is like saying the Chicago Bulls are sort of having a bad season at the moment. Love.Angel.Music.Baby was one of the first genuinely good American pop albums I had heard in years, and that’s saying a lot considering the whole album was basically one huge Harajuku gimmick and at least half of the tracks were superfluous at best. The single “Wind It Up” had me worried right away, mostly because I was looking for new material and I got “Hollaback Girl Part II” instead. So how does Stefani fare on her follow-up album? Calling it a sophomore slump would be too nice.

Most of the album is listless, slow, and missing that synth presence spanning much of L.A.M.B. Instead of being inundated with pop, the album is peppered with hip-hop/rap. Did I say peppered? I meant smothered. “Orange County Girl” is Stefani’s attempt to prove she’s still Jenny From the Block while “Now That You Got It” attempts to prove, no really! she’s still Jenny From the Block. By the way, “I know you’ve been waiting, but I’ve been out making babies“? Pure poetry.

So quel shock to learn that as the disc progresses and you’re just about to pass out from sheer boredom and/or you just can’t take anymore psuedo-street talk and/or you’re positive there’s an ironic joke somewhere here about “the sweet escape,” you just can’t be bothered to find it, you uncover two of the most impressive songs of Stefani’s career. “Don’t Get it Twisted” screams radio play louder than Usher’s “Yeah” as the beats come in behind snazzy digital rhythms and computer bleeps that command you to find your inner hot and drop it. “This is the most craziest shit ever,” is the worst set of filler lyrics since Coldplay released, um, any song with lyrics ever, but it’s trademark Gwen and that’s what we like about her; her innocuous ability to coin a phrase like “This shit is bananas,” and turn it into a statement that summarizes 2005 more than we ever wanted it to (you scoff now, but fifteen years from now, ya’ll know you’ll be sitting around shooting the shit and remarking to a friend, “Hey, remember when that shit was bananas?” and you will chuckle at the absurdity of the song’s popularity but then go home and download it for nostalgia’s sake).

The other song that stands out is “Wonderful Life,” a L.A.M.B. inspired look at the memory of a dead relationship. It’s irony at its best and the way she bitterly croons, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful life” speaks more than the other thirteen tracks on the entire album. If Stefani had stuck to more pop tunes like this beautiful number, I’m sure I would have fallen in love with her all over again, but as such, the album is simply what I imagine a quick three day writing session in the studio might conjure before the crew pat themselves on the back and and go home to watch the money roll in.

Gwen Stefani Official Site
Buy The Sweet Escape