In interviews about the creation of her album The Sweet Escape, Gwen Stefani openly talks about the album being made up of at least 50% songs left over from the Love, Angel, Music, Baby album sessions. Unfortunately, the album sounds like that, too. This is a must only for diehard Gwen Stefani fans.
One of the most exciting aspects of Gwen Stefani's first solo album Love, Angel, Music, Baby was its air of casting caution to the wind and careening from one style to another with collaborators almost daring each other to take Gwen over the top. Unfortunately, that effect is significantly muted here. Consequently, there is nothing that approaches the wicked Broadway/hip hop/pop mashup of "Rich Girl" or the sheer lunacy of "Hollaback Girl" and "Bubble Pop Electric." The new album's "Wind It Up" (with its Sound of Music samples) sounds like it wants to be a worthy successor to "Rich Girl," but there is far too little substance to the song. For the most part, things go downhill from there.
Diamonds in the Rough
There are a few notable buried treasures on The Sweet Escape. Akon helps deliver a breezy, playful title tune. Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley collaborates on the beautiful, and suitably chilly sounding, "Early Winter." "4 in the Morning," one of the album's 3 collaborations with former boyfriend and current No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal, is beautiful as well. Both "Early Winter" and "4 in the Morning" detail relationships in trouble. Many fans will want to know if they are autobiographical and spell trouble in Gwen's marriage to Gavin Rossdale.
Top Tracks on 'The Sweet Escape'
- Wind It Up
- The Sweet Escape
- Early Winter
- 4 in the Morning
The Next Move for Gwen Stefani
The problem with the songs on The Sweet Escape isn't so much that they are astoundingly bad. Instead, it is their inability to maintain interest in the listener. "Breakin' Up" and "U Started It," both produced by the Neptunes and co-written with Pharrell Williams, stretch out the flimsiest of ideas into the length of a full song. "Wonderful Life," co-written with Linda Perry, sounds like an extended Kodak commercial if you can stick with it long enough to follow the words.
It seems that Gwen Stefani's solo ideas have begun to wane. She has openly discussed that she expects to go back to her group No Doubt after promoting The Sweet Escape. Let's hope her other bandmates can re-invigorate the creative ideas that made No Doubt's Rock Steady album and her own Love, Angel, Music, Baby so much fun.