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Gwen Stefani-The Sweet Escape (Pop) :

          “Sweet Escape” is Gwen Stefani’s second music album; and the first after her pregnancy. It puts her back in the studio with most of her “Love.Angel.Music.Baby” songwriting and production collaborators, a savvy team that delivers a mix of “pop-rock-hip-hop” tracks. The Sweet Escape is much more modern than Stefani’s first album.

          The album has beats by the Neptunes, Akon, Nellee Hooper, Swizz Beats and her No Doubt bandmate, Tony Kanal. It’s Stefani’s suburban white girl sensibility that comes through in the style of music, such as the yodeling sounds from “The Sound of Music” inserted into the album’s lead single, “Wind It Up”. It is mixed with whirring bass sounds from the Neptunes.

          In a couple of the songs, Stefani explores her own insecurities and inner dilemmas. This is when she is the most intriguing. However, aside from the hip-hop angle, The Sweet Escape is far from a fully-realized concept album. It will most likely be viewed as a retread of Stefani’s well-received solo debut, but it shares that album’s general inconsistency.

          The Neptunes, who produced her biggest hit, “Hollaback Girl,” are behind almost half of the album, with mixed results. Wind It Up” attempts but fails to recapture the success of “Hollaback.” With songs like “Early Winter” and the Tony Kanal-written tracks (“4 In The Morning,” “Fluorescent,” and “Don’t Get It Twisted”), the results seem less forced. At times, the album is let down by some insipid and annoying lyrics. Overall, The Sweet Escape is a decent mix of good and average songs.