The most immediate and noticeable aspect of modern life, post-CD burner, is that parties almost exclusively rely on burned mix CDs to keep the entertainment varied. When you can posit The Ramones right next to Tina Turner right next to The Cardigans and The Carrie Nations, its hard to even entertain the idea of playing an entire album at a party. This phenomenon is one of the factors as to why people are losing their mind over No Doubter Gwen Stefanis solo album. This is an album that manages a near-impossible feat- it spans almost every genre of fun party and dance music you can name, yet remains a cohesive whole, introducing a new facet of ska-punk princess Stefani to the world even as it covers enough bases to make sure that every ass will find something to shake to.
Musically, the album is a little schizophrenic, though as a whole it feels like a perfect Whitmans sampler of 80s pop-dance. You get the sassy Debbie Deb/Exposé vibe of Serious and the E.G. Daily vs. the Human League synth ballad Cool given just as much love and care on this record, no one track shrieking out filler, and, even better, the whole thing clocking in at forty-something minutes. Bliss, much like those great Narada Michael Walden bleepy synth noises in Crash, which pop out of the mix like the car stereo just decided to sing along.
After all the drama over those Mary J. Blige Family Affair remixes, who would have thought that Dr. Dre could mix up a 4-to-the-floor dance track? His contribution, Rich Girl, reunites Stefani with Let Me Blow Your Mind duet partner Eve and turns them loose over a dancehall/classic house teardown of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof. If this is what Jay-Zs fudging with Annie has wrought, I say, be glad of it.
Equally steeped in the fun of old-school hip-hop is the call-and-response Hollaback Girl, produced by The Neptunes. To hear it is to envision cheerleaders bringing it onl eft and right, a Mickey for the new millennium but with street cred and a heavier dose of funk. And on Luxurious, La Gwen conducts a dialogue across the decades both with The Isley Brothers Between The Sheets and The Notorious B.I.G.s Big Poppa, yet always keeping the mind and booty focused on the track at hand.
Stefanis two tracks with OutKasts Andre 3000 (Long Way To Go and Bubble Pop Electric, the latter credited to his Johnny Vulture alter ego) are strange and delicious, paying ample tribute to Princes schizophrenic majesty, both in their visions of freakalicious sex technology and utopias where race is an irrelevance. Further reference to His Royal Badness pops up in The Real Thing, the albums finest moment and what is easily the ground zero of 80s pop music. Backed by Wendy & Lisa as well as Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner of New Order, The Real Thing is Mancunian delight and Minnesotathrowdown distilled into a pop monster that is plaintive, sincere, beautiful, and wholeheartedly electro. Pop music doesnt get better than this.
Harajuku Girls doesnt really do too much for me, but its Asian strings and runway repartee delight several of my friends, two of whom consider it their favorite song on the record, so there you go. The test, of course, is a simple one. Put Love Angel Music Baby on at a party or get-together and watch the response. No disc that hasnt been compiled by me or a friend so effortlessly spans the disco, the roller rink, the sleepover, the late-night dedication show, the parking lot at the game, and the jukebox at the bar so perfectly. The finest dance album of the year, no doubt.