Four years later, Stefani has joined the ranks of solo artists and smug marrieds, a combination that has turbo-boosted her self-esteem while damning her lyrics to unfathomable lows. With her confidence issues resolved, she focuses on less universal themes, such as self-affirmed "super hotness" and ostentatious wealth, on tiresome tracks that occasionally wrap her crass materialism in poorly constructed metaphors. (We're rich in love/We're rollin' in cashmere.)
Stefani's transformation from desperate housewife to Paris Hilton isn't this album's only glaring flaw. She also demonstrates a disturbing tendency to lapse into hip-hop slang, perhaps the worst possible fit for her hypercute California-blonde coo. When she warbles, This shit is bananas during the ill-fitting Neptunes track "Hollaback Girl," Stefani turns a promising percussive parade into a joke. Not content to co-opt only one culture, Stefani celebrates her newfound obsession with all things Japanese on "Harajuku Girls," an oppressively adorable number that would make Hello Kitty puke.
Love, Angel, Music, Baby ends with a decent duet, in which Stefani swaps spoken-sung verses with Andre 3000 over flitting futuristic funk. The tune's take on interracial love isn't exactly profound (Lovers in love is such a wonderful thing), and sampling Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is a shameless shortcut to unearned emotion. Still, this song feels like an artistic oasis on an album devoid of any other sign of intelligence or musical innovation.