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GWEN STEFANI, “Love.Angel.Music.Baby” (Interscope)

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera didn’t really cut it, and the Simpson sisters could never be taken seriously. But Gwen Stefani is the perfect candidate for Next Madonna, and has re-invented herself accordingly on her debut solo album.

Except that the artistically consistent Madonna never really re-invented herself, while Stefani over re-invents herself. Blame it on her overload of collaborating songwriters and producers (among them Dr. Dre, the Neptunes, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal, Andre 3000, Linda Perry and Dallas Austin).

She’s also detrimentally fixated on the trendy Tokyo Harajuku district and all its “cool” and “cute” attributes, so much so that Harajuku is referenced in both opening track “What You Waiting For?” and “Harajuku Girls,” not to mention the name of her Harajuku Lover Music publishing company.

Not to say “L.A.M.B.” is a total washout. “Rich Girl,” a cover of the dancehall reggae hit from Louchie Lou and Michie One from a few years back and featuring Eve (Stefani joined on Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” hit in 2001), is a nice female turn on the “Fiddler on the Roof” classic. But this is a techno/rhythm groove album, and while she carries off the white-girl-hip-hop shtick well enough, it tends to wear thin pretty quick.

Still, Debbie Harry survived the failure of her first solo album, and Stefani’s smart enough to come back with a strong second one—though it’s bound to be either more focused, if not subdued. / Issue 44 - September 2018
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