Gwen Stefani first came into the public conscious as the lead singer of
overnight sensation No Doubt; with the advent of the band's first single,
"Just a Girl," her blonde hair and belly piercing became immediate fixtures
on MTV. No Doubt continued to sell records into the '00s, but in 2004
Stefani broke out on her own, releasing smash hit solo album Love Angel
Music Baby and debuting a well-received fashion line called L.A.M.B.
The album found Stefani continuing to forge the friendship with hip-hop she
began with her cameo on Eve's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind": many of the tracks
featured fly hip-hop beats, provided by the likes of Dr. Dre, the Neptunes
and Andre 3000. But the album also encompassed some of Stefani's other
predilections, including Japanese culture and couture, embodied on both the
tour and videos for Love Angel Music Baby by the Harajuku Girls.
Stefani referred to the girls as her "imaginary" Japanese back-up dancers
and named them (what else?) Love, Angel, Music and Baby, prompting
comedienne Margaret Cho, who called the singer's performances a "minstrel
show," and other critics to denounce Stefani as a racist.
Stefani's second album has yet to meet with the same explosive ire. The
Sweet Escape, released in late 2006, once again pays hit-making,
trend-setting tribute to Stefani's myriad passions, including dance pop,
hip-hop, J-pop, Broadway musicals and her infant son (with Bush's Gavin