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Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani

“The Sweet Escape”

Grade: B

What samantha Thinks:

After her 2004 solo debut with “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.,” Gwen Stefani has begun the New Year with a bang. The release of her second solo album, “The Sweet Escape,” is just the catalyst for her “Harajuku Lovers Live Tour,” which begins in August.

Stefani pulled out all the big guns with this album, calling in favors from platinum-selling singer Akon (who produced “The Sweet Escape”), British MC Lady Sovereign and her controversial Japanese friends, singers and dancers, the Harajuku Lovers. Stefani has created another interestingly sweet and salty, hard and soft musical texture.

Stefani, 37, proves she is not slowing down anytime soon. Beginning her music career in 1992, when she made her debut with third wave ska band, No Doubt, Gwen has been busy on the singing, dancing, songwriting, pop, rock, fashion designer and actress road to the big time.

“The Sweet Escape” begins with a hilarious yodel-rap only slightly familiar to “The Sound of Music” fans in her first track, “Wind It Up.”

All songs carry a strong beat, strong-willed lyrics, and the quirky artistic dynamics known only as “Gwen Stefani.” A passive, happy-go-lucky, upbeat album, a feeling of nostalgia for her older albums are evident to any listener.

If you purchase the album, go to www.gwenstefani.com and click on the key icon. You receive a free download of “What You Waiting For?” from the Harajuku Lovers Live DVD.

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