I hated Gwen Stefani‘s first disc, L.A.M.B.. I thought it was overly calculated, heartless pop. And i actually enjoy good pop music, so it’s not the genre I was holding against her, it was her execution. Of course, despite my screams into the wilderness, the disc ended up going gangbusters and launched Stefani from the role of charismatic front-woman into the guise of international pop diva.
Now I’m not saying there wasn’t a single decent song on L.A.M.B., but even my enjoyment of the bongo beats over a crowd screaming “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” was severely compromised when I envisioned the song being written by committee and test-marketed within an inch of his life.
The Sweet Escape is, in my estimation, a marked improvement. Don’t worry, Gwennie hasn’t exactly gotten experimental or gone punk, but she has managed to have her songs come across as human constructs instead of the previous batch of machine manufactured beats. There’s still barely an instrument in the mix that isn’t synthetic, but this time around her compositions beat with a blood red heart. For the most part.
The disc’s highlight is also it’s most frustrating track, since it betrays just how good the whole album could have been if Stefani had let herself take a few more chances. “Yummy” follows the storyline of brand new mom trying to reclaim some of her own personal womanhood. It’s a sweet tune with lyrics that actually seem to be written from Stefani’s own book of poems. the beats are provided by The Neptunes and the first 3/4 of the track is serviceable and bows down to Stefani’s presence. The last minute and a half, though, features a sonic build-up that is probably the best thing The Neptunes have produced in th last two years. It’s a shame this sort of craziness was left as a code. If it had been allowed the seep throughout the disc we might have ended up with on of the most daring pop albums of the year.
Other stand-outs are the yodeling “Wind It Up”, the Beyoncé-biting “now That You Got It”, and the melting ice flow and quirky girl-group bop of”Early Winter”. In a year where I feel pop played it safe for the most part, causing me to feel cheated for getting my hopes up by Xtina and Trousersnake, it’s odd that Stefani ended up being the girl ready to take the most chances to win my heart.