Gwen Stefani

When stars who rose to fame in bands toss out a solo album, the music they make on their own often drips with pretentiousness. So it comes as a legitimate relief to discover that the grandest personal statement on Love, Angel, Music, Baby, Gwen Stefani's inaugural outing, is the "What You Waiting For?" line "Take a chance, you stupid ho."

Appearances to the contrary, Stefani's no dunce, and she wisely refuses to put on airs. Sure, "Rich Girl" was produced by Dr. Dre and features a walk-on by Eve, but one of the hooks is a goof on a tune from Fiddler on the Roof. Likewise, the Neptunes-produced "Hollaback Girl" and "Luxurious," helmed by Nellee Hooper and No Doubter Tony Kanal, find Stefani taking a fun side trip into hip-hop culture rather than pretending that she belongs there.

Granted, "Long Way to Go," co-starring Andre 3000, is heavy-handed; its message, about the intolerance faced by interracial couples, is delivered in part by Dr. Martin Luther King. For the most part, though, Stefani keeps things enjoyably superficial, and more power to her. Admitting you've got nothing to say is a lot better than pretending you do.


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