Gwen Stefani -- Sweet Escape (Interscope)

I was never much of a fan of No Doubt, but I could appreciate their brand of guitar-driven, New Wave-influence Pop, which provided a little sunny-side-up alternative to mopey Grunge (and the Faux

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Gwen Stefani — Sweet Escape



I was never much of a fan of No Doubt, but I could appreciate their brand of guitar-driven, New Wave-influence Pop, which provided a little sunny-side-up alternative to mopey Grunge (and the Faux Grunge that followed). The band tackled the issue of "cute frontwoman takes all the attention away from hard-working band members" in one of their videos, something that has become a reality, as singer Gwen Stefani's solo career continues to overshadow the group's work. Stefani has become a tabloid-worthy celebrity and her solo work has predictably fallen into a contrived glitziness, making club bangers and other chart-begging nuggets of '80s-inspired dreck. The couple of things I've read about Stefani's second solo stab have mostly been about her new "look" (Scarface-era Michelle Pfeiffer!). Listening to Sweet Escape, the focus on Stefani's fashion fits, given the empty plasticity of most of the tracks. Stefani has become the poor man's Madonna. You could tell someone that tracks like "4 In the Morning" and "The Sweet Escape" are Madonna and they would believe you unflinchingly. There are some interesting production ideas on Escape, particularly when it comes to the beats (courtesy of producers like The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz). Stefani's cutesy voice has run its course by now, so she's trying to "rap" more and use outdated street lingo ("Don't Get It Twisted"), putting her in the realm of Fergie, Nelly Furtado and any other white chick looking for a commercial makeover. Furthermore, for all the bells and whistles (She yodels! She copies Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam! Listen to all of those old synthesizer sounds!), Sweet Escape is impossibly boring. But if you want an album that melds True Blue-era Madonna with Destiny's Child, your CD collection includes Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls and the highlight of your year is watching Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards, have at Sweet Escape. It at least rests near the top of the garbage heap that is today's Top 40. (Mike Breen) Grade: D

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