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Gwen Stefani

Celebrity dance-pop/ska-rock star and mother-of-three GWEN STEFANI (married to BUSH’s Gavin Rossdale between 2002 and 2015), is nowadays, as much known for her exotic solo hits as her time(s) as feisty frontwoman with third-wave ska outfit NO DOUBT. A bleached-blonde reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow (whom she briefly portrayed in The Aviator movie of 2004) and MADONNA, Gwen has followed her dream of stardom in her quest to almost eclipse her idols.
Born Gwen (not Gwendolyn) Renee Stefani on October 3, 1969, in Fullerton, California, she followed her older brother Eric Stefani into ska revival act, NO DOUBT. At this stage, led out by John Spence, until he tragically took his own life in December ’87, the group’s subsequent transition came about when former backing singer Gwen stepped up to the spotlight. NO DOUBT would take several years to get off the mark both critically and commercially, and after 1995’s `Just A Girl’ and `Don’t Speak’ smashed into charts (both from the `Tragic Kingdom’ album), the group never looked back; Gwen had split from bassist boyfriend Tony Kanal, who’d subsequently stuck with the band throughout its tough times, and beyond.
Nearly a decade down the line, having already vamped up her image with the Grammy-winning, DR. DRE-produced EVE collaboration, `Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ (a monster global hit in 2001), GWEN STEFANI primed herself for the club-queen superstar league with transatlantic Top 5 solo album, LOVE.ANGEL.MUSIC.BABY (2004) {*7}. Gratuitously a product of its era, the record rounded up pacesetters past and present – the NEPTUNES, Nellee Hooper, Andre 3000, even Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis – for a bling-bop, diamond-knuckled trawl through noughtiesville.
A new wave/rock-styled, “Like Clockwork”-meets “Lucky Number”-addled `What You Waiting For?’ was a get-together (alongside the all-Asian Harajuku Girls) lead single, a warbling, hopelessly fist-pumping Top 50 (UK Top 5) anthem that opened the set. Co-written with LINDA PERRY (once a 4 NON BLONDE), the opener wasn’t exactly indicative of the record as a whole, but then how could it be, given the diversity of its input. A Fiddler On The Roof-inspired follow-up, `Rich Girl’, was another DRE/EVE collaborative rap job (and another Top 10 entry), living out the usual catwalk-of-life fantasies. Coming on like a syncopated spin on KELIS’ `Milkshake’, the NEPTUNES-masterminded cheerleader `Hollaback Girl’ topped the charts in summer 2005 (and reached the UK Top 10). An album standout and the third in a release schedule that was to eventually stretch to six singles that included `Cool’, a CARS-esque 80s chugger and another transatlantic Top 20; the R&B-dull `Luxurious’ was really milking it, and `Crash’ stalled just inside the Top 50.
2006 was another busy year of the iconic Gwen, now pregnant with her first child, Kingston. Interested in fashion from her days as a colour-coordinated chameleon with NO DOUBT, she launched dolls and other clothing accessories, whilst a sophomore Top 3 set, THE SWEET ESCAPE {*6}, was almost secondary to her keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ celeb agenda; the single of the same name (featuring AKON) followed attendant hit, `Wind It Up’, from a few places off the top of the charts. Under the guidance of Midas touch man PHARRELL WILLIAMS, the slightly explicit `Yummy’ was very much in the mould of MADONNA, BRITNEY or KELIS (again). When `Now That You Got It’, `4 In The Morning’ and `Early Winter’ failed in their attempt to break into the Top 10 (the latter two by miles), Gwen had time to look after her first-born and, in turn, her second child, Zuma Nesta Rock (born 2008). This put paid to a fully-fledged NO DOUBT reunion, which, although kick-started in the years to come, didn’t get into first gear again until 2012, when “comeback” set `Push And Shove’ pierced the charts.
A third baby, Apollo Bowie Flynn, was born in February 2014, but her marriage was on the rocks – again! – when BUSH-man Gavin was allegedly having a 3-year affair with the Gwen-lookalike babysitter, Mindy Mann; the messy (“irreconcilable differences”) divorce in October 2015 took a back seat with the release of her long-awaited album, THIS IS WHAT THE TRUTH LOOKS LIKE (2016) {*5}. Of course, STEFANI had not been idle in her attempt to consolidate her position as a top artist; a collaboration with friend PHARRELL (whom she appeared with as a judge on The Voice), and further work with CALVIN HARRIS, SNOOP DOGG and EMINEM (on the Southpaw-endorsed single, `Kings Never Die’) led to the said set scaling the charts (UK Top 20). Bolstered by two minor hits, `Used To Love You’ and `Make Me Like You’ (the latter accompanied a video promo shot at the Grammys), there were indeed younger, trendier and sassier pop stars such as KATY PERRY, LADY GAGA and the likes to charm the kids out of their pocket-money. The sophisticated and ice-cool STEFANI still holds the key to future success, although in `Misery’ and the finger-wagging `Naughty’, it would not be on this disappointing dance-floor-by-numbers set.
© MC Strong 2006/ERD // rev-up MCS Mar2016

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