[12] Gwen Stefani, ‘What You Waiting For?’

Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Girls

Not just a zillion-mile-per-hour state-of-the-art glossy pop single, but a fascinating soul-search into the bargain. For three-and-a-half head-mashing minutes, Gwenno trills engagingly about the position of the slightly older woman in modern culture (“Your moment will run out ‘cos of your sex chromosome”), tosses a few proverbial coins to ease her decision to leave No Doubt (Jesus Christ, woman, do it!), ticks herself off as a cowardly “stupid hoe” and – choice made – hurtles down the rabbit hole to solo stardom. The odd dreadful misfire aside, Love. Angel. Music. Baby justified the audacity and the equally mixed bag The Sweet Escape pretty much sealed it.

So why’s she rejoining the Doubters? Did Satan buy her soul? Was she handed ‘Don’t Speak’ at a still, silent crossroads all those years ago?

This busy record has Junior grinning and “tick-tocking” like Captain Hook’s crocodile nemesis. Brassy concoctions like ‘What You Waiting For?’ are the base fuel of modern pop music, keeping the treble high, the sonic effects pinging and the “imaginary” Harajuku fairies jacking – it’s the least a modern girl like Junior expects.

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[10] Gwen Stefani featuring Akon, ‘The Sweet Escape’

Gwen Stefani featuring Akon, ‘The Sweet Escape’

Woooo-hoooo. Yeeee-hoooo.
 
I thought it seemed throwaway at first, even annoying – certainly annoying – until I realised that these were its lasting qualities. In a pop world about to succumb, yet again, to some insultingly dreary X Factor pap, we should hold platinum-plated Gwen to our hearts and, for once, thank the Lord for Akon.
 
Most importantly, this is a record that Junior loves like a brother (or sister – she changes her preference every day) and gets palpably excited about whenever she hears the opening clanging chords. This time, she punched the air with her fists, sang along to the obvious bits and even attempted the tongue-twisting bits, and stood in front of the right hand speaker for the duration.
 
So if you don’t understand the song, find a youth that does. I gather that it’s effortless pop gold.

[9] Madonna, ‘Hung Up’

Her mum has played this many times, so Junior knows what to expect and she’s not precious about her ABBA samples. It has that gimmick where they fade out the treble and bring it back again, as if you’re leaving the party and coming back, and I can’t remember what the effect’s called. Daft Punk like it, and Kylie did it too because Daft Punk like it. It also has a ticking clock, like Gwen Stefani’s “tick tock”s and Kylie’s tick-tocking to ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’. Madonna is a magpie. No revelation there. 

Still, it’s a satisfying melting pot. 

Father and daughter exchange grimaces as we recall the contortionist leotard poses thrown in the video. Yes, yes, she looks good for 47 but, well, no. Considering her advanced years, though, the music’s more vital than much of the limp fare put out by pop stars half, maybe a third of her age. Mentioning no names. At this rate, they’ll get an advert at the head of the page. 

So, ‘Hung Up’. It’s an object lesson in turn-of-the-millennium disco pop house chicanery, that’ll do for Junior until Daft Punk is playing at her house.

[13] Gwen Stefani, ‘Cool’

Gwen’s hit us with annoying yet catchy singles all year, but this is the sweetest, the most sedate. It’s that age-old tale- boy and girl split up, boy meets other girl, boy and girl don’t have a problem with each other as long as neither has too much to drink one night, maybe. All set to an arrangement that would slip seamlessly onto the soundtrack of St Elmo’s Fire or The Breakfast Club. There’s a wistful look in Junior’s eyes, but it only says that breakfast is overdue.