#TBT: Gwen Stefani
Barbie meets 90’s grunge. Punk rock Harajuku Girls.
Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Who else could we be talking about, but the infamous Gwen Stefani? After entering the music scene with California-based reggae-punk band No Doubt in the 1990’s, Gwen Stefani has gradually established herself as one of the greatest influences on our generation’s pop-culture. Her music career is one of the longest and most diverse compared to most female singers. While she began in the grunge-punk limelight of 1990’s Los Angeles, she transformed throughout the 2000’s into an American pop icon – without ever losing a hint of her originality. For this week’s Throwback Thursday, let’s take a peek into Ms. Stefani’s unique musical past, shall we?
“Just a Girl” – No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom, 1995
Though “Just a Girl” is a classic 90’s tune, it takes much influence from the retro sounds of 80’s keyboards and effects. It opens with a catchy guitar riff that continues throughout the rest of the song and instantly gets your head bobbing. Next enter Gwen’s self-written angsty girl-power lyrics that quickly escalate in tone from a sarcastically sweet “Take this pink ribbon off my eyes,” to a full on biting remark, “I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite/So don’t let me have any rights.” The entire track is a big “F U” from Gwen to the man, with her punk-rock vocals pleading to let her a life beyond what was typically expected of women at the time. While it’s no doubt that times have changed, with women as influential and powerful as they’ve ever been, “Just a Girl” is still a very much relevant – and fun – track to jam out to.
“Underneath It All” – No Doubt feat. Lady Saw, Rock Steady, 2002
Perhaps my personal favorite by No Doubt, “Underneath It All” is the ultimate chill-out song, seamlessly meshing Reggae beats and nonchalant love-song lyrics. It opens with the buzzing sounds of an old-fashioned television that is quickly cut off with some tropical drums, setting the tune into its beachy nature. The song’s standout line, “You’re really lovely underneath it all,” even comes from a journal entry that Ms. Stefani wrote after spending a day in the park with her then boyfriend and current husband, Gavin Rossdale. The Reggae influence comes through with the band’s use of tropical percussion and horns in addition to their classic electric guitar and drum set. And of course, Lady Saw’s very fun and Jamaican guest verse contributes heavily to the track’s laid-back vibes.
“Cool” – Gwen Stefani, Love Angel Music Baby, 2004
Originally drafted in 2000 for No Doubt, “Cool” was ultimately revised and completed in 2004 by Gwen Stefani alongside Dallas Austin. As the title suggests, it is about being “cool,” or remaining friendly, with an ex-lover. For Stefani personally, it represents and ended romantic relationship with now a good friend and No Doubt’s bassist, Tony Kanal. The lyrics of the song outline the nature of their relationship, surmising it in the final line, “After all that we’ve been though, I know we’re cool.” Musically, while it is among Stefani’s later works, “Cool” is strongly reminiscent of music by 1980’s female pop stars such as Cyndi Lauper or Madonna. The combination of the synthesizers, keyboards, and Stefani’s swaying voice give rise to a very high school, almost Clueless-esque, tune. So if you’re ever feeling a little nostalgic, feel free to pop a bottle, turn on “Cool,” and reminisce.
“Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani, Love Angel Music Baby, 2005
When grunge musician Courtney Love negatively commented on Stefani being a “cheerleader” in the high school atmosphere of Hollywood, in comparison to herself chilling “out in the smoker shed,” Stefani responded full on with the track, “Hollaback Girl.” One of the most popular tracks of 2005 – even I remember countless “B-A-N-A-N-A” chants echoing through my middle school hallways – Stefani surely did not fail to stand up for herself with this one. She worked on the track largely with Pharrell Willliams, who also commented, “Gwen is like the girl in high school who just had her own style.” It’s true, Gwen is no cheerleader – she doesn’t really fit into any of our classic high school stereotypes. “Hollaback Girl” is stomping and sassy, and even if it’s been a few years, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself singing, and chanting, along.
“Wind it Up” – Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape, 2006
Stefani partnered with Williams again in 2005 to create her second solo album, The Sweet Escape. Together, they penned “Wind It Up” to be the album’s lead single as well as the runway music for Stefani’s fashion line, L.A.M.B. In writing and producing the song, Stefani found great inspiration in her favorite film, The Sound of Music. This is where the beginning yodeling and soft, whistling “hoo’s” throughout the track come from. Though the yodels, and track overall, received negative reviews from critics, Stefani responded, “Why can’t you do something weird for a while? These songs are all about having fun, silly records that are to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.” This certainly rings true with “Wind It Up,” an unusual mix of yodels, steady percussion, and almost rap-like vocals that are not to be studied too carefully.
Whether you’re looking for some Reggae-punk or sassy pop this Throwback Thursday, Gwen Stefani should rise to the top of your list. She is truly original in her work, and there are few artists out there today that mirror her style – or multitudes of style, rather. To get your Sweet Escape into the land of Harajuku Girls and 90’s garage bands, we’ve included some of the videos to these classics mentioned above, below – happy #tbt!
Source: Wikipedia, Tumblr