Love Angel Music Baby

Love Angel Music Baby

It’s hard to believe Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is Gwen Stefani’s first solo album. For many artists, perfecting a sound so niche requires years of experimentation and a handful of projects. But for Stefani, all it took was a push from Interscope co-founder Jimmy Iovine—and an all-star production and songwriting team—to piece together the avant-garde pop album that catapulted the Orange County native to solo superstardom. Released in 2004, and recorded not long after Stefani’s band No Doubt went on hiatus, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. found the singer searching for new sounds. While No Doubt thrived on a mix of ska and punk, Stefani was now turning to hip-hop, rock and electronic music for inspiration. And she leaned on collaborators from across the pop spectrum, including André 3000, The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Jam and songwriter Linda Perry. The resulting album was admirably experimental and wildly accessible. The Neptunes-produced “Hollaback Girl” was inspired in part by a session with Pharrell. Stefani felt she needed an “attitude” song for the album, and recalled how grunge artist Courtney Love had once referred to her as a “cheerleader”. According to a 2005 interview, the comment proved to be inspirational: “You want me to be a cheerleader?” Stefani remembered thinking. “Well, I will be one then. And I’ll rule the whole world, just you watch me.” (A bold claim, but an accurate one: “Hollaback Girl” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a month.) Elsewhere on the album, Stefani and Eve collaborate on the ragga cut “Rich Girl”, a cover of British reggae duo Louchie Lou & Michie One’s “Rich Girl” (Stefani and Eve’s version interpolates “If I Were a Rich Man” from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof). “Luxurious”, meanwhile, is also drawn from the past, sampling The Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets”. And while the ska and punk sounds of No Doubt are absent on Love. Angel. Music. Baby., the band’s bassist—and Stefani’s former beau—Tony Kanal can be found on “Cool”, which chronicles the pair’s break-up and subsequent friendship, and the Salt-N-Pepa-inspired “Crash”, which the two co-wrote. Shiny and gaudy in the best ways, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is a lesson in expertly fusing together unlikely influences and eras, in a manner that’s both refreshingly cohesive and enduring.

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