Logo Mast Image
Want to join? Forgot password?

Interview BuzzFeed.News

Buzzfeed.News Interview July 18, 2018
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

.

Part 3

Her Betty Boopvoiced delivery of the song encapsulated the early Stefani appeal it became the years most ringing declaration of not-quite independence, moderate self-esteem and quasi conviction, according to Newsweek. One Spin profile chided reviews that have taken her fondness for cosmetics and navel-displaying stage wear as compelling evidence to impeach her as the sort of pliant, submissive *bleep* toy of which we should have long been rid, underlining that it was just who Stefani was: Maybe I should be more of a tough chick, she said. But Im not. Thats not me.

But there was a second aspect to Stefanis image one that wasnt necessarily hidden, but that made her innate femininity all the more beguiling. On magazine covers, Stefani was glossed up and put together; while performing, however, she became a frenetic, electric, sweat-glistening version of herself. She might not have thought of herself as a rock chick, but onstage, she was Anthony Kiedis in a crop top. When No Doubt performed Just a Girl live, Stefani would transform the song: When she reached the chorus, shed ask the crowd, Are there any boys here? When they roared, shed ask them to repeat after her: Im just a girl / Im just a girl in the world. Afterward, shed giggle. Thats funny! shed say, before asking if there were any cute, innocent girls in the audience. Shed restart the chorus, but this time, her voice transformed into something more animal, more aggressive. *bleep* YOU, IM A GIRL! she yelled, prompting a stadium full of women to yell it back at her.

The bifurcation between girly girl interview Gwen and aggro concert Gwen is replicated in the video for Dont Speak, which intersperses shots of Stefani, barefoot in a 40s polka-dot house dress, wandering around as the band plays in a garage, with footage of her contorting her body onstage to the point of exhaustion. No other video so effectively captures the contradictory heart of her appeal, the embrace and disavowal of conventional femininity, and no other video remains as indelible to No Doubts rise. Other videos from the 90s fade, but the memory of Stefani in that dress, in that yellow crop top remains as clear today as the first day I saw it, available for me and so many others to pick whichever part of Stefani felt desirable on a given day. Even if, especially if, it was both roles at once.

From the beginning, Stefanis beauty and style were framed as emblematic of her independent spirit like the zine-making feminists who she separated herself from, she was a DIY girl, pulling together looks from thrift stores, ripping apart and reshaping clothes with her basic sewing skills. In later years, Stefanis magpie-like tendency to absorb the fashions around her would be called a form of cultural appropriation. But in the 90s, that phrase had yet to become part of the mainstream cultural conversation. Stefani herself explained the bindi nonchalantly: When she first started dating Tony Kanal whose parents had emigrated from India to London and eventually the US when he was a child she fell in love with his mothers style, from her sari to her henna tattoos. Stefani bought stick-on earrings from the jewelry store and started wearing them in the center of her forehead; she wore saris in various configurations in videos and on the red carpet.

No matter how much Stefani borrowed from other people and cultures to create her look, it was framed as uniquely hers. When Madonna showed up with her hands hennaed at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1998, Entertainment Weekly suggested she was cribbing Stefanis look. (Stefanis response: I was a little shocked by that. But whatever; Im sure there are things I nicked off her from the 80s.) The celebration of Stefanis fashion and its rapid commodification would eventually lead to the creation of her own clothing line, L.A.M.B., in 2003, and the second phase of Stefanis star image.

She might not have thought of herself as a rock chick, but onstage, she was Anthony Kiedis in a crop top.

Nine years passed between the release of Tragic Kingdom and Stefanis first solo album, L.A.M.B. (short for Love. Angel. Music. Baby.), in 2004 years that included the release of two more No Doubt albums. The songs from this era, mostly written by Stefani, make the undertones of the first album even more explicit: the emotional roller coaster of her still long-distance relationship with Rossdale and her conflicting desires to both continue her career and settle down with a family. Stefani was annoyed that many interpreted her song Simple Kind of Life, with the lyric I always thought Id be a mom / Sometimes I wish for a mistake / / You seem like youd be a good dad, as straight-up yearning for motherhood.

I dont want people to think, Oh, shes turning 30 and getting moody and wants to settle down! she said. Its more about how I used to think thats all ever wanted, and the confusion of realizing that I am more faithful to my freedom than I ever thought I could be. And thats scary. But the simple bifurcation remained. As Entertainment Weekly explained, Theres a war being waged for Gwen Stefanis soul. On one shoulder sits Suzy Homemaker. On the other, Suzi Quatro," a reference to the groundbreaking bassist who became one of the first female rock stars.

In 2002, after seven years together, Stefani married Rossdale. Instead of easing the contradictory interests at the center of her image, marriage fortified them. When a Rolling Stone writer told her that everyone in the band was not what they appeared to be that, for instance, Stefani was a blonde sex symbol who is actually a totally traditional love-smitten woman, Stefani was thrilled. Most people dont get it, she replied. I love that you are getting it. When Stefani released L.A.M.B., she was careful to downplay the idea of herself as a solo artist. Instead, she framed the new record as an experiment and a brief respite from No Doubt, filled with collaborations with other producers and artists including Pharrell Williams, who coauthored Hollaback Girl, rumored to be a response to Courtney Loves jab, years before, that Stefani was a cheerleader.

Stefanis conceit for the entire album derived from the trendsetting Japanese girls shed seen in the Harajuku section of Tokyo. When No Doubt toured Japan in 1996, Stefani explained, that was when the dream started. The dream manifested in various ways on the album, including a song, Harajuku Girls, dedicated to the Tokyo residents whod inspired her (featuring Japanese-sounding backup vocals), and the presence of four silent Japanese women, costumed in Harajuku style, who trailed her during promotional tours, shifting expressions in unison, seemingly on cue. (Unconfirmed rumors persist that the four women signed contracts forbidding them from speaking in public.) If the bindi had been Stefanis way of reframing a cultural practice as fashion, her Harajuku Girls made actual people into accessories.

At the time, Stefani whose bindi-wearing had never been publicly questioned found the entire enterprise funny. I was thinking of calling the album Stolen Goods, she joked to Rolling Stone. Or It Was Yours and Now Its Mine. The release of the album coincided with the early days of blogging and one blog, titled Free the Gwenihana Four, sold mugs and T-shirts in order to release the women from serving an unspecified term in the custody of pop singer Gwen Stefani. Comedian Margaret Cho voiced what would probably be the overriding reaction today, calling the Harajuku Girls part of a minstrel show. She didnt do her research! Stefani told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. The truth is that I basically was saying how great that culture is. It pisses me off that [Cho] would not do the research and then talk out like that. Its just so embarrassing for her. The Harajuku Girls is an art project. Its fun!

Songlist

No Doubt & Gwen Stefani Song Details

Random Listing
rocksteady cover
Rock Steady Intro

Browse all listings
You are here: Interview BuzzFeed.News

Welcome on our brand new site. You can access the members area by creating an account (which is for free). It will also allow you to interact more on the site.