When Gwen Stefani was a little girl, she must be dancing every day in her room after school to Madonna’s Like a Virgin CD. Perhaps when she was a teenager, she tried to see Madonna backstage only to be tossed away by Madonna’s burly bodyguards, which drove poor Ms Stefani into an angst-ridden period where she danced to Courtney Love instead of Madonna. But little girls grow up one day and Ms Stefani is now an adult solo singer. No more desperate Madonna impersonation acts for her, no way, now she can finally ditch all ska pretensions and becomes what she really wants to do in life: a drag version of Madonna!
Love, Angel, Music, Baby is a very uneven CD that results from Ms Stefani’s tumultuous inner psyche. Her desperate attempts to exorcise Madonna on the advice of her musical guru shrink (who may or may not be into Kaballah) result in The Real Thing, a topless and ten times tackier version of Madonna’s Holiday, and Harajuku Girls, which is what one would get if Madonna grew up in Japan and sported a Sadako hairstyle instead of conical bras. There are collaborations that are brilliant in concept which produce fabulous sounds (with Andre 3000) or comical misfires (with has-beens New Order and Wendy & Lisa and the not really has-been the Neptunes). Along the way, Ms Stefani “pays homage” to groups like Depeche Mode and the Clash in tracks that combine mild punk, electronica dance, and rock elements like Danger Zone.
Love, Angel, Music, Baby is a colorful CD. The colorful CD artwork, the colorful collaborations, the colorful hairstyle, the colorful array of musical influences of the late 1970s and all through the 1980s that this CD plunders its inspiration from – it’s to be commended how all this clashing colors come together in a manner that still manage to come off as sincere and genuine instead of a result of someone trying too hard at too many different sounds at one time. But unfortunately, while this CD tries to sell itself as some crazy psychadelic Japanese anime drag queen musical based on Madonna and Cyndi Lauper’s secret love affair in technicolor, the end result is too uneven to be considered good. There are as many duds as there are gems here.
Oh, and watch out for the fantastically awful lyrics. You haven’t lived until you hear Ms Stefani, without any hint of irony, singing things like “Ooh! Ooh! This is my shit! This is my shit! Let me hear you say, ‘This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!'” at the top of her voice.