Gwen Stefani

Your friends are totally going to make fun of Gwen Stefani's first solo album. Granted, they have quite a bit of ammunition at their disposal. "Cool," a synthy pile of schlock about Stefani's overly coifed marriage (to Bush's Gavin Rossdale), just sucks. "Harajuku Girls" is amusing in a blippy, ring-tone-happy kind of way, but the overtly exotic gist of the song is pretty fucked up: "The ranguage of your crothing is somesing to encounter," Gwen giggles. Um, sorry, no. Frankly, a lot of the album -- its ridiculous title, for one; Stefani's "mad rhyming skill" on "Hollaback Girl," for another -- is downright embarrassing. But Stefani works potential humiliation like a SoCal Madonna -- with an impenetrable (and in Stefani's case, accessible) grace that saves her ass time and again. The weird Grease-esque subplot on "Bubble Pop Electric"? I like it, especially framed as it is by girl group-meets-No Doubt harmonies and nonstop, effervescent beats. Even the really weird Fiddler on the Roof bite on "Rich Girl" has a certain flair to it. So if you can put up with the campy indulgences here, tell your friends to piss off, throw a slumber party for yourself, and bounce around your bedroom in your undies while you sing backup, Material Girl-style.

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