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Gwen Stefani

The Sweet Escape (Interscope)

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Gwen Stefani's shtick has come to embody an entire female generation's attitude toward good times and spending money. Simply check out The Sweet Escape highlight reel: "Breakin' Up" is a possible transcript of a customer-service call with Verizon. Both "Yummy" and the lead single "Wind It Up" speak to the joys of clubbing (with the latter sampling The Sound of Music). The lyrics to "Don't Get It Twisted" read like a brazen rebuke of grammar in a text message: "This is the most craziest shit ever." And if there's anyone out there who still can't relate to cell phones, club culture, and two-ways, the slinky manifesto "Orange County Girl," wherein Gwen admits to once "selling makeup at the mall," should do the trick.

Produced by a host of big names including the Neptunes, Akon, and No Doubt's Tony Kanal, the tracks re-wed marching bands and videogames (if it ain't broke, make Breakin' 2). When Gwen does step out of the club for winsome tunes like "Early Winter" and "Wonderful Life," things approach enjoyable in a Euro-pop kind of way. But ultimately she's doing Like a Virgin: The Musical, replacing Madonna's uncomfortable Catholic-guilt with lines like "I'm so luscious I ache." This is our reward for living in a world where fierce allegiances are forged over a nice pair of shoes.

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