Not everything gets better with age. At 35, punk princess Gwen Stefani has finally allowed herself to indulge in the glorious kingdom that is pop music. Her first solo album, Love,Angel,Music,Baby, is disappointing, but certainly not surprising (especially after Rock Steady).

Music Reviews
Marilyn Monroe, version 2.0. (Courtesy of Interscope)

Watching her recent career is like watching someone addicted to partying indulge themselves in unhealthy pleasures as they slowly destroy their life. One might comment, “Wow, Gwen’s really let herself/her talent go.” The counter-argument, is, of course, “Well, she’s been in the music biz for so long, she’s allowed to kick back and make something shallow and have a good time.”

The songs are catchy and playful, but musically vapid — pure fluff. It would be possible to feel bad for Stefani and her new career path if it didn’t look like she was having so much fun. As such, it’s just embarrassing. The subject matter — complete with descriptions of a lavish lifestyle, break-up songs and making fun of the poorly-dressed — is pathetically immature for a 35 year-old woman, and, when augmented by sing-song pop rhythms, the album sounds like the product of 13-year-old girls who watch too much MTV.

Need proof? Listen to “Hollaback Girl,” in which Stefani yells, “This shit is bananas / B-A-N-A-N-A-S” Shouldn’t she be talking about marriage — considering her recent betrothal to Bush’s mouth-watering frontman, Gavin Rossdale — children, politics, the societal impacts of something or anything even remotely mature? She had more depth when she was 24 with blue hair, making progressive statements about womanhood in America, writing songs with a backup band and being able to say more about society than “this shit is bananas.”

In her early Tragic Kingdom days, her uniquely whiney voice was showcased as art, but now her vocals sound as mechanic as the electro-pop background. It all blends together in a busy and amorphous musical blob. Songs like “Cool” or “Luxurious” are reminiscent of elevator music. The album probably would have been huge 10 or 20 years ago when light dance-pop songs were revered. But today it just sounds outdated with lyrics about catfights, breaking up, making fun of rich girls and hooking up in cars … typical teenage girl stuff.

For all those grown ska kids still pining for another Tragic Kingdom, prepare to feel abandoned once again. Even a cameo from Andre 3000 can’t salvage this album. It’s understandable that Stefani has to compete in the cutthroat world of pop princesses and aging divas, but can’t she find a balance between fluff and substance?

 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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