[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.