January 24, 2002

The Diary of Gwen Stefani

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Oh my god! Did you hear the news?

Yeah, Gavin asked Gwen to marry him!

Oh my god, they make such a cute couple!

God, I hate Gwen, she stole, like, the hottest musician besides the Lifehouse guy!

Conversations like this could probably have been overheard over the last couple of weeks at malls around the world. Guys in gyms were probably similarly crying foul (except for the cute couple thing, and Gwen would be the hottest singer besides Britney Spears or something).

Last year was a high profile year for Gwen Stefani. Re-emerging from the lackluster success of Return of Saturn, Stefani ditched her bad karma pink hair (which made her seem like more of a caricature than a sex symbol) and returned to her more “natural” blonde. She infiltrated Moby’s “Southside” and followed that performance by delivering the hook on Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” helping the latter become one of the year’s hottest singles. But lost amid the holiday rush and constant gossip was the release of No Doubt’s fourth studio album.

Sometimes people forget that Gwen Stefani is the frontwoman and lyricist for the California pop ska band. But for those more interested in her personal life, there is more insight into it here than in any tabloid or entertainment rag. Gwen is not exactly an enigmatic writer and rarely uses anything more than a transparent metaphor to get her thoughts across. On Rock Steady, No Doubt fuses new wave, reggae, and dancehall synthesizer to complement Stefani’s cries for commitment from her longtime, long distance boyfriend, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale. Apparently her pleas got Gavin’s attention.

The disc jumps out of the gate with the hard-charging “Hella Good” and first single, “Hey Baby.” The latter is one of two songs on the album not about Gwen’s relationship with Rossdale. Instead, Stefani focuses on the private lives of her bandmates backstage and sugarcoats the debauchery of after-concert throwdowns. Actually, middle school descriptions of love seem to be a minor theme in the album. Following “Hey Baby” is an entire song about Gwen’s anticipation for sucking face with Rossdale, aptly titled “Making Out.” But this na