Stefani ‘Escapes’ with satisfying sophomore album

Robert Taylor


Credit: Jason Hall

Admit it, whatever your final opinion of “Wind It Up,” is, the first time you heard it the first thing you thought was, “What was Gwen Stefani smoking when she thought this one up?” It is, after all, a highly ambitious yet ultimately hollow mixture of Broadway, yodeling, and techno, which leads one to wonder if her entire second album, The Sweet Escape, is just as experimental and out-there as that first single.

It isn’t. This is both a good and bad thing.

The Sweet Escape does provide fans of Stefani’s work with enough toe-tapping songs to satisfy, but falls short of her excellent first album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., in several regards.

But before we get to those, let’s talk about what works in the album, and there is plenty. All of the songs, to one degree or another, are inherently listenable and there isn’t one that will make you want to scratch the back of the CD and return it to Borders.

There are some great, slower melodies on The Sweet Escape, which should be able to serve Stefani well if she decides to go that route for a single. “4 In The Morning” is lovely and heartfelt, while “U Started It” is a great breakup song for those in need of one.

But there are definite shortcomings with the faster songs. In particular, “Yummy” and “Don’t Get It Twisted” which seem like pale imitations of “Hollaback Girl,” that fall far short of reaching their predecessors addictiveness. The closest this album gets to that excellence is “Yummy,” which, forgive the terrible pun, is delicious.

Other pleasant surprises, aside from the aforementioned “Wind It Up,” are some neat little risks in “Orange County Girl,” which mixes several of Stefani’s earlier songs with other well-known pop tunes such as “Barbie Girl.”

But the overall feel of this sophomore album is one of safety. Yes, there is a little of Stefani’s trademark edginess sprinkled throughout the album, but it leaves the listener wishing that she would take some more risks. Her sound seems to be reined in instead of developing like it should.

But this isn’t a bad album by any means. Its sound is satisfying and cohesive and should provide Stefani with at least three more number one singles before she returns to No Doubt.

Contact ALL correspondent Robert Taylor at [email protected].

The Sweet Escape

Gwen Stefani

Released on Interscope Records

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