This shit is still bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
It’s been six devastatingly long years since No Doubt icon and Harajuku Girl enthusiast Gwen Stefani released her last solo single, the incredibly underrated “Early Winter.”
Plenty has changed in music since then: Lady Gaga briefly became the biggest superstar in the world, and then the world mostly ditched her! Festival-sized EDM became a mainstream thing! Heidi Montag dropped a surprise visual album! (Maybe not the last one. A boy can dream.)
In any case, Gwen’s done a lot of growing up since then (even though she’s proven herself to be a vampire who stays eternally looking like a twentysomething) and music’s done a lot of changing as well, but she’s finally made her grand return to the scene with “Baby Don’t Lie.”
The industry vet’s comeback track was co-helmed by pop powerhouse Benny Blanco (Ke$ha, Britney) and “Halo” penner Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) and, accordingly, sounds as anthemic and pristinely polished for pop radio as those two capable names would imply.
Kicking off with a springy beat and an “uh huh!” straight out of “Hollaback Girl,” “Baby” might suggest at first that Gwen’s about to head right back down to that track — but then, it swerves: In comes a cool, chilly, sort of island-tinged pulse recalling The XX‘s “Intro” (or Rihanna‘s “Drunk On Love”), as Gwen questions her man’s love above punchy drums, serving a little bit of Shakira yodel in the process. “There’s something behind those eyes that you can’t disgui-EESE…”
And then, in comes the chorus, which is clearly the stuff of Tedder — a stomping, infuriatingly catchy thing: “Baby don’t, baby don’t, baby don’t, baby don’t lie…/I don’t need to cry no longer!” she chants. Throw in a post-chorus synth flare, and you’ve got an instant earworm upon the very first play.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Gwen Solofani production without a bit of quirk thrown for good measure: The bridge provides that silliness, in which the diva searches for the afikoman at her Passover seder: “What you hiding, boy? I can tell what you been hidin’ boy, and you can tell me if I’m gettin’ warm!” (This is a Jewish joke I have made.)
“Baby” is great: It’s dangerously catchy, and an obvious radio smash upon first listen. And while it sounds like a lot of things — Rihanna, Shakira, The XX, OneRepublic — it’s still very much a Gwen Stefani song.
I will say this: Love. Angel. Music Baby. felt like a truly pioneering record from start to finish — it was weird, unexpected and genuinely ahead of its time. The lead single alone, “What You Waiting For?”, stands as one of the greatest pop songs of the past decade.
This one might not be nearly as much of a game-changer, but it does represent the fact that Gwen’s still got it — she always did — and her comeback has never felt more crucial. Welcome home, mama.
“Baby Don’t Lie” will be released on October 19. (iTunes)