Gwen Stefani is best known for her being the lead vocalist of No Doubt, and of course, for her rock hard abs. Founded in 1986, No Doubt has achieved great success, and are still putting out music and touring today. The band however, did take a hiatus from 2004-2008. During that time, Stefani decided that she wanted to make a “quick dance record.” Instead of the quick project she originally planned, Stefani ended up collaborating with a number of artists and put out two solo albums: Love.Angel.Music.Baby. and The Sweet Escape.
For Love.Angel.Music.Baby. Stefani drew influences with a variety of different music styles. She wanted to create something fun and experiment with different sounds, rather than try to prove to the world her talent and depth as an artist. For The Sweet Escape. Stefani focused more on electronic and dance music. Both of her solo attempts were successful, having been nominated for 6 Grammy Awards.
In honor of the singer’s 44th birthday on October 3, here is a top 10 list of her best solo songs. Happy birthday, Gwen Stefani!
10. Wonderful Life
Although never a single, “Wonderful Life” is a beautifully written and emotional song from The Sweet Escape. Stefani has stated that the track is about her “first kissing-love” in ninth grade, Matt Ellej. He passed away, and Stefani wanted to dedicate a song to him since he had a big influence on her life. He turned her on to different kinds of music and bands, like one of his favorites, Depeche Mode. Martin Gore of the band played on the track and he loved Matt’s story. Stefani explained that writing and recording the song was such a meaningful experience for her, especially since Matt’s idol played on the track written for him.
“Crash” was not originally planned to be a single, but was released as the sixth and last single of her debut solo Love. Angel. Music. Baby. The song describes relationships using automobile metaphors. Stefani worked on the track with Tony Kanal. Due to Stefani’s pregnancy, a live music video of her performing the track was released. By the time the song hit the airwaves, the album had already been out for a while and certified triple platinum, so it saw limited success. The song however, is a fan favorite and one of Gwen’s favorites as well.
Luxurious, which opens with Stefani’s husband Gavin Rossdale speaking in French, received mix reviews from critics. Even though it didn’t stand out as well as the other singles, the song is well known and received by most fans. Stefani explains that the song is being rich in love. She had hoped to express that you have to work hard for the rewards of having such a love.
7. 4 in the Morning
“4 in the Morning” appeared on Stefani’s second solo album, The Sweet Escape. Stefani began penning the song when she was pregnant, and finished it later with Tony Kanal, her No Doubt bandmate. The song was received well by critics, but fared better outside of the United States. Even though the track wasn’t a huge success, it is known as one of Stefani’s favorites from The Sweet Escape.
6. Wind It Up
Although not liked by critics, “Wind It Up” charted within the top 20 in most countries. The song included Stefani yodeling, and it came along with a Sound of Music inspired music video. The video was a success. Stefani has defended the song saying, “…I still think it’s brilliant and I stand by it. Why can’t you do something weird for a while? These songs are all about having fun, silly records that are to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.”
5. Rich Girl
“Rich Girl” was an adaptation of the song “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof. The lyrics are from the perspective of a young Stefani, who used to dream of the fame and riches before she hit the big time. Stefani collaborated on the track with Eve. The two previously recorded “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” together in 2001. “Rich Girl” became a commercial success and was nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
“Cool” appeared on Stefani’s debut solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.. The track is about an ex-relationship where the two are no longer together, but they are still “cool” and remain good friends. The song is about her No Doubt bandmate, Tony Kanal, who she had a long relationship with. The song received positive reviews from critics.
3. The Sweet Escape
“The Sweet Escape” is the title track of Stefani’s second solo album. Akon, also featured on the song, was working on the beat of the song before the collaboration began. He had based it off of her earlier work with No Doubt. The song was received favorably by critics and became a commercial success. It was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. The track which is an apology after a fight between two lovers, hit number one on the Pop 100 and Pop 100 Airplay charts.
2. Hollaback Girl
Stefani felt like her first solo album needed an attitude song. That is when she remembered an interview where Courtney Love referred to her negatively as being a cheerleader. Stefani never thought of herself as a cheerleader, and was bothered by the remark. She stated “…You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I’ll rule the whole world, just you watch me.” The song ended up hitting number one in the US. It also became the second most successful single of 2005 and was the first single to ever sell one million digital downloads.
1. What You Waiting For?
“What You Waiting For?” was released as Stefani’s first solo single, meant to act like her explanation as why she decided to briefly go solo. The lyrics refer to Stefani’s fears of releasing her own album, as well as pressure and a lack of inspiration. This is the first track where Stefani mentions the infamous Harajuku Girls, having become inspired by these women in 1996. The music video was based around Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The music video was received well, sometimes being referred to as a short film. It won two MTV Video Music Awards, and the song itself was nominated for a Grammy in 2005.