Gwen Stefani is still pushing the limits of ridiculousness on The Sweet Escape; after all, it takes a person quite secure in her self-confidence to bring back yodeling as a viable chorus hook. But the aforementioned von Trapp-fest ("Wind It Up") is actually the worst song on her second solo effort, a flamboyant sore thumb on an otherwise excellent disc whose tunes genre-skip nimbly from '80s synthpop to modern hip-hop to two-tone ska. What's most striking, though, is that Escape's variety is an asset rather than a liability and that Stefani finally sounds comfortable enough in her pop chameleon skin to rely on songcraft over shtick. There's "Early Winter," a longing breakup song with light piano flurries that resembles Aimee Mann's 'Til Tuesday salad days; "4 in the Morning," whose sleight-of-hand trip-hop vibes of early '90s girl-group R&B; and even "Wonderful Life," where iced keyboards and Stefani's gothic chanteuse vocals scream Violator-era Depeche Mode. The No Doubt vocalist isn't quite as successful with acts like a hip-hop bulldog ("Breakin' Up") but that's only because her unself-conscious sense of fun and adventure, coupled with Technicolor tunes, are what make her today's premier pop diva.
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Find out about upcoming events and special offers happening in South Florida.