Gwen Stefani: She sings! She designs! She dances ... uh, um, no
Gwen Stefani became the hottest female in pop music the hard way. She earned it. After 20 years as the delightfully cartoonish lead singer...
Seattle Times music critic
Gwen Stefani became the hottest female in pop music the hard way.
She earned it.
After 20 years as the delightfully cartoonish lead singer of the ska-punk band No Doubt — 10 of those years in obscurity — and selling some 27 million recordings, Stefani earned the right to go solo, at least for a while. (No Doubt is scheduled to make a new album next year.)
Her dance-floor-oriented solo CD, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby.," released a year ago, proves she made the right move, having sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, and still going strong. The hit single "Hollaback Girl" last month became the first recording to pass the million mark in download sales.
At 36, Stefani has become the latest fave of teenage girls, the most powerful demographic in pop culture. The audience at her KeyArena show Monday will almost certainly be made up of mostly young teen girls.
Gwen Stefani, M.I.A., 7:30 p.m. Monday, KeyArena, Seattle Center; $35.50-$65.50 (206-628-0888, www.ticketmaster.com; information, 206-684-7200, www.seattlecenter.com, www.harajukulovers.com, www.gwenstefani.com).
Her female following isn't all due to her new recording, or her Grammy-winning hits with No Doubt, like "Spiderwebs," "Don't Speak" and "Hey Baby." Stefani also is a fashion maven. Her 3-year-old L.A.M.B. clothing line, available at major retailers such as Nordstrom, has annual sales of $20 million. Her latest designs drew raves at New York Fashion Week in September. Anna Wintour, the powerful editor of Vogue, declared, "We will soon be seeing Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. competing with Donna Karan's DKNY."
Stefani's music and clothing interests dovetail in her "Harajuku Lovers Tour 2005," named after the Harajuku fashion district of Tokyo, from which she gets some of her designing inspiration.
Her performance is as much a fashion show as it is a concert. She changes clothes for almost every number. She hasn't been doing any No Doubt songs on the tour, instead performing all the songs from the album, plus two new ones. That's led to mostly negative reviews, because about half the songs on the album are eminently forgettable. And drawing material from only one album makes for a short show — about an hour, followed by a 15-minute encore.
While Stefani is adept at writing dance-oriented pop, she can't dance (as anyone who has seen a No Doubt concert can attest). That's why she has eight dancers in her show, including four Asian women dubbed "The Harajuku Girls."
Because they're dressed like schoolgirls, fawn all over Stefani, maintain blank expressions and don't speak (on or off stage — part of their contract), the Harajuku Girls have generated some controversy in the Asian community for stereotyping Asian women as weak and submissive. Stefani has so far ignored the controversy. The flap is the only serious aspect connected to the show. Other than that, it's all frothy fun.
The Black Eyed Peas were the opening act on the tour, but they kept upstaging Stefani. So now the opener is M.I.A., the hip-hop star from Sri Lanka, whose real name is Maya Arulpragasam. The London-based singer's bass-heavy dance-hall rhythms and politically oriented lyrics probably will baffle most of the young girls in the crowd, making them even hungrier for Stefani. Which is probably her intention.
Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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