Sweet Escape

The Sweet Escape

4.0 2
by Gwen Stefani
     
 

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Awkward and alluring in equal measures, Gwen Stefani's 2004 solo debut, Love.Angel.Music.Baby., did its job: it made Gwen a bigger star on her own than she was as the lead singer of No Doubt. With that established and her long-desired wish for a baby finally fulfilled, there was no rush for Gwen to get back to her regular gig, so she

Overview

Awkward and alluring in equal measures, Gwen Stefani's 2004 solo debut, Love.Angel.Music.Baby., did its job: it made Gwen a bigger star on her own than she was as the lead singer of No Doubt. With that established and her long-desired wish for a baby finally fulfilled, there was no rush for Gwen to get back to her regular gig, so she made another solo album, The Sweet Escape, which expanded on what really sold her debut: her tenuous connections to Californian club culture. There was always a sense of artifice behind the turn-of-the-century makeover that brought Gwen from a ska-punk sweetheart to a dance club queen, but that doesn't mean it didn't work at least on occasion, most spectacularly so on the gloriously dumb marching-band rap of "Hollaback Girl," the Neptunes production that turned L.A.M.B. into a blockbuster. There, as on her duet with Eve on "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," Gwen made the transition into a modern-day material girl with ease, but when she tried to shoehorn this ghetto-fabulous persona into her original new wave girl character, it felt forced, nowhere more so than on the Linda Perry written and produced "What You Waiting For." Gwen doesn't make that mistake again on The Sweet Escape -- by and large, she keeps these two sides of her personality separate, favoring the streets and nightclubs to the comfort of her new wave home. Just because she wants to run in the streets doesn't mean she belongs there; she continues to sound far more comfortable mining new wave pop, as only a child of the '80s could. As always, it's those celebrations of cool synths and stylish pop hooks that work the best for Stefani, whether she's approximating the chilliness of early-MTV new romantics on "Wonderful Life," mashing Prince and Madonna on "Fluorescent," or lying back on the coolly sensual "4 in the Morning." Only once on the album is she able to bring this style and popcraft to a heavy dance track, and that's on the irresistible Akon-produced title track, driven by a giddy "wee-oh!" hook and supported by a nearly anthemic summertime chorus. Tellingly, the Neptunes, the architects of her best dance cuts on L.A.M.B., did not produce this track, but they do have a huge presence on The Sweet Escape, helming five of the 12 songs, all but one being tracks that weigh down the album considerably. The exception is "U Started It," a light and nifty evocation of mid-period Prince, with its lilting melody, silken harmonies, and pizzicato strings. It sounds effortless and effervescent, two words that do not apply to their other four productions, all skeletal, rhythm-heavy tracks that fail to click. Sometimes, they're merely leaden, as on the stumbling autobiographical rap "Orange County Girl"; sometimes, they're cloying and crass, as on the rather embarrassing "Yummy"; sometimes they have an interesting idea executed poorly, as on "Breakin' Up," a breakup song built on a dying cell phone metaphor that's interesting in theory but its stuttering, static rhythms and repetitive chorus are irritating in practice. Also interesting in theory is the truly bizarre lead single, "Wind It Up," where the Neptunes force fanfares and samples from The Sound of Music's "The Lonely Goatherd" into one of their typical minimalist tracks, over which Gwen spouts off clumsy material-minded lyrics touting her fashion line and her shape. Nothing in this track really works, but it's hard not to listen to it in wonder, since its unwieldy rhythms and rhymes capture everything that's currently wrong about Stefani. From the stilted production to the fashion fetish, all the way down to her decision to rap on far too much of the album, all the dance-pop here seems like a pose, creating the impression that she's a glamour girl slumming on a weekend night -- something that her self-proclaimed Michelle Pfieffer in Scarface "coke whore" makeover showcased on the album's cover doesn't do much to dissuade. If the dance production on The Sweet Escape were better, these hipster affectations would be easier to forgive, but they're not: they're canned and bland, which only accentuates Stefani's stiffness. These misfires are so grand they overshadow the many good moments on The Sweet Escape, which are invariably those songs that stay true to her long-standing love of new wave pop (not coincidentally, these include every production from her No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal). These are the moments that give The Sweet Escape its sweetness, and while they may require a little effort to dig out, they're worth the effort, since it proves that beneath the layers of bling, Gwen remains the SoCal sweetheart that has always been as spunky and likeable as she has been sexy.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/05/2006
Label:
Interscope Records
UPC:
0602517156050
catalogNumber:
000812102
Rank:
727

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Gwen Stefani   Primary Artist,Vocals
Stephen Bradley   Trumpet,Baritone,Baritone (Vocal)
Pete Davis   Keyboards
Martin Gore   Guitar
Tony Love   Guitar
Angelo Moore   Saxophone
Gabrial McNair   Trombone,Keyboards,Baritone,Baritone (Vocal)
Pharrell Williams   Vocals
Tony Kanal   Keyboards
Greg Collins   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Loren Dawson   Keyboards
Richard Hawley   Guitar
Akon   Keyboards
Matt Beck   Guitar
Mark Ralph   Guitar
Tim Rice-Oxley   Piano,Keyboards
Aliaune "Akon" Thiam   Keyboards
Sean Garrett   Background Vocals
Alex Dromgoole   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Giorgio Tuinfort   Keyboards
Anthony LoGerfo   Percussion
Kingston James McGregor Rossdale   Voices
Talent Bootcamp Kids   Vocals
Anthony LoGerto   Percussion
Scheila Gonzalez   Clarinet

Technical Credits

Steve Berman   Contributor
Ron Fair   Orchestra Production
Nellee Hooper   Producer,Audio Production
Kevin Mills   Engineer
Colin Mitchell   Engineer
Linda Perry   Composer
Mark "Spike" Stent   Producer
Simon Gogerly   Engineer
Martin Kierszenbaum   Contributor
Gwen Stefani   Composer
Pharrell Williams   Composer
Robbie Snow   Contributor
Tony Kanal   Composer,Programming,Producer,Audio Production
Gretchen Anderson   Contributor
Aidan Love   Programming
Brian Garten   Engineer
Angelo Aponte   Engineer
Neptunes   Producer,Audio Production
Swizz Beatz   Producer,Audio Production
Kathy Angstadt   Contributor
Greg Collins   Engineer,Vocal Engineer,Vocal Producer
Jolie Clemens   Art Direction
Tom Williams   Contributor
Chris Lopes   Contributor
Andrew Coleman   Engineer
Ewan Pearson   Programming
Andrew Alekel   Engineer
S. Garrett   Composer
Stephanie Johnson   Contributor
Bojan Dugich   Engineer
Kasseem Dean   Composer
Andrew Mains   Contributor
Jonathan Merritt   Engineer
Tim Rice-Oxley   Composer
Aliaune "Akon" Thiam   Composer,Programming,Producer,Audio Production
Ravid Yosef   Contributor
Keith Gretlein   Engineer
Sean Garrett   Producer
Dennis Dennehy   Contributor
Dyana Kass   Contributor
David Saslow   Contributor
Ryan O'Donnell   Contributor
Julian Chan   Engineer
Jurgen Grebner   Contributor
Neil Kanal   Programming,Engineer
Scott Enright   Contributor
Giorgio Tuinfort   Composer,Programming,Producer
Tom Balla   Contributor
Missy Barone   Contributor
Candace Berry   Contributor
Brian Bray   Contributor
Nino Cuccinello   Contributor
Wendy Diplock   Contributor
Jordan Glickson   Contributor
Morgan Hartmann   Contributor
Kerry Hickey   Contributor
Neil Jacobson   Contributor
Garnett March   Contributor
Ginger Ramsey   Contributor
Crystal Riley   Contributor
Brenda Romano   Contributor
Tony Seyler   Contributor
Dave Tomberlin   Contributor
Vivian Tran   Contributor
David Cohen   Contributor
Aiden Love   Programming

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