In Celebration Of Gwen Stefani: 12 Of The Best Songs From Our Favorite Hollaback Girl
Gwen Stefani has always been the ultra-cool dark horse of mainstream female musicians, ever since her debut as the lead singer of No Doubt back in 1986. Her belly-baring, bindi-wearing, badass persona set her apart from all of the Britneys and Christinas of the world. Back in 2004, she made that distinction very clear when she traded in the ska punk sounds of her band for a quirkier, synth-driven influence.
That year Stefani released her debut album Love.Angel.Music.Baby, a record that set a precedent for what modern pop music should sound like. Her third project coming soon with “Baby Don’t Lie” as the lead single, so we hope this comeback makes an impression that shakes up the industry as much as her first album did a decade ago.
Today (November 21), we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the L.A.M.B. LP by taking a look back on some of the singer’s best musical moments. Read on after the jump to see Gwen Stefani’s 12 best songs, from Tragic Kingdom to Sweet Escape — and everything in between!
12. “Bubble Pop Electric” — Gwen Stefani (2004)
Kicking off this list is one of the more underrated songs from Stefani’s solo career. “Bubble Pop Electric,” a deep cut from Love.Angel.Music.Baby is a totally kitsch and campy song about having sex at a drive-in movie. But the singer somehow keeps the super-bubbly (pun intended) track from being too cheesy, and more nostalgic — think Grease on speed. Plus, the suave cameo from Andre 3000 (a.k.a. Johnny Vulture) makes it all the more fun!
11. “Hey Baby” — No Doubt (2001)
No Doubt is mainly known for their ska/punk sound, but songs like “Hey Baby” showed off the band’s love for a reggae vibe! From their fifth studio LP Rock Steady, the tune includes a fun mix of electro synths fit for a ’90s video game and Stefani’s calm, nonchalant vocals. The feature from dancehall icon Bounty Killer made the track all the more authentic! “Hey Baby” went on to win a Grammy in 2003 for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
10. “4 In The Morning” — Gwen Stefani (2006)
This next song shows just how versatile Gwen Stefani truly is! “4 In The Morning,” from the singer’s sophomore LP Sweet Escape, is a breezy yet emotive ’80s-ballad that highlights her tender vocals. Tony Kanal, No Doubt’s bassist and frequent collaborator on Stefani’s solo work, co-wrote and produced the track. The result is a dreamy yet distraught plea for a lover to make up his mind. “4 In The Morning” was a definite shift from the album’s other crazed pop tracks, which made it all the more refreshing and memorable.
9. “Just A Girl” — No Doubt (1995)
“Just A Girl” is arguably the reason why everyone fell in love with No Doubt in the first place! Marked as the lead single from the band’s third studio LP Tragic Kingdom, the punchy tune shook itself apart from the moody grunge scene that was taking place at the time. “Just A Girl” is a ska punk track that injects feminist themes way before “***Flawless”: “I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite/So don’t let me have any rights/Oh…I’ve had it up to here!” The song is defiant, rowdy, confident and just damn awesome!
8. “It’s My Life” — No Doubt (2003)
“It’s My Life” technically isn’t No Doubt’s song, but they sure did make it their own! It was first released in 1984 by British synthpop band Talk Talk, but the ska crew recorded their version in 2003 as part of promotion for their greatest hits album, The Singles 1992-2003. The song’s 1930s-inspired visual is also one of their best! Directed by David LaChapelle, Stefani plays a stone-cold serial killer who ends up being given the death penalty. How badass is that?
7. “Underneath It All” — No Doubt (2002)
This next song takes a break from all the uptempo tracks on the list with its warm and mellow vibe! “Underneath It All,” also from 2001’s Rock Steady, is a love song that is dedicated to Stefani’s husband Gavin Rossdale. Like many of the tunes off the album, this one has distinct reggae influences and even a guest verse from dancehall artist Lady Saw. Co-produced by legendary duo Sly & Robbie in Jamaica, the song has a charming quality that will make you want to sway your hips alongside your significant other. It was also successful on the charts, becoming the band’s highest charting single with its number three position on Billboard Hot 100.
6. “Hella Good” — No Doubt (2002)
No Doubt were rooted in ska punk, but songs like “Hella Good” proved they could also master electronic rock! Promoted as the second single from their fifth studio LP, Rock Steady, the uptempo track is a mashup of synthpop, dance, funk and rock. We think co-producers The Neptunes may have had something to do with that! The fuzzy guitar riffs, jolts of wiry synths and Stefani’s chilled vocals are meant for the dance floor — and will definitely keep you grooving all night along!
5. “Simple Kind Of Life” — No Doubt (2000)
Next up on the list is “Simple Kind Of Life,” the second single from No Doubt’s fourth studio LP — Return of Saturn. It is a pop rock ballad that displays the softer, more somber side of the highly energetic band. The tune was written entirely by Stefani, as she allowed listeners to enter her mind while she sang about wanting to settle down with then-boyfriend, Gavin Rossdale. The visual image of Gwen Stefani running in a John Galliano wedding dress with her cotton candy-pink curls floating in the wind, will forever be embedded in our minds as an awesome musical moment!
4. “What You Waiting For?” — Gwen Stefani (2004)
This next song is the defining moment of Gwen Stefani’s solo career. “What You Waiting For” served as the lead single and opening track for the singer’s debut album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby. The wildly electric song, co-written by Linda Perry, reveals Stefani’s fear of producing the album, the lack of comfort usually given by her No Doubt band members and her intense writer’s block. Its brilliance came from the kitschy giggling, crazed falsettos, stomping percussion and an irresistable melody. Along with the song, the video was an iconic moment within itself! Inspired by Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the Francis Lawrence-directed visual is a fantasy world — filled with stunning designer gowns, cartoon-like imagery, an odd performance in the recording studio, and her loyal Harajuku Girls. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…
3. “Hollaback Girl” — Gwen Stefani (2004)
“Hollaback Girl” was the third single off Stefani’s debut album, and boy was it a memorable one! Co-written and produced by frequent collaborators The Neptunes, the commanding tune was doing rebellious schoolgirl chants way before Charli XCX came along with “Break The Rules.” The song showed off Stefani’s rowdy side, as it was a response to Courtney Love‘s comment in an interview: “Being famous is just like being in high school. But I’m not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker shed.”
The song is minimal in both structure and lyrics, but it packs a heavy punch! Its production has old-school hip-hop influences combined with shouty cheerleader vocals: “So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack/ Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out/ That’s right, put your pom-poms downs, getting everybody fired up.” The brass section reminiscent of a high school marching band, and the Stefani’s snappy attitude elevated the song even more. All in all, the musical impact “Hollaback Girl” was simply B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
2. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” — Eve featuring Gwen Stefani (2001)
We know, we know — “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” isn’t technically Gwen Stefani’s song. But her guest feature on Eve‘s 2001 single made just as much of an impression as her solo work! As a matter of fact, the song was seen as the unofficial introduction of Stefani standing alone as a musician without the comfort blanket of her bandmates. No one could’ve guessed the hardcore rapper and the rock singer would collaborate, but we’re all glad they did!
Taken from Eve’s sophomore album Scorpion, the Dr. Dre and Scott Storch-produced track was just damn cool! Critics and fans both loved the song, as it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy in 2002 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The two later reunited on 2004’s “Rich Girl” from Stefani’s debut LP, but that song couldn’t live up to the laid-back swagger that was “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.”
1. “Don’t Speak” — No Doubt (1996)
Capping off the list is one of my personal favorites, not just from No Doubt — but of all time! “Don’t Speak” is a heartbreaking alternative rock ballad that finds Stefani baring her soul without apologies. The song, co-written with her older brother Eric, reveals the singer’s thoughts on the ending of the seven-year relationship between herself and bassist Tony Kanal.
The lyrics read like a diary, with Stefani begging “I know just what you’re saying/ So please stop explaining/ Don’t tell me cause it hurts.” The song is tense (the band was on the verge breaking up), tragic and relatable for many people going through a difficult relationship. It definitely got the attention of the public, as it spent 16 non-consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
What is your favorite Gwen Stefani song? Sound off in the comments below!
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