She may have been delayed by the birth of her new son, Kingston, but Gwen Stefani is finally ready to drop her second-biggest release of the year: her second solo LP, The Sweet Escape. The follow-up to Love, Angel, Music, Baby has been slated for a December 5 release, with "Wind It Up" designated as the first single, according to her label rep.
"This album is surprisingly different than the last one," Stefani said in a statement. "I started recording it last year before Kingston was born and it's definitely evolved over the last year. The dance sound is very 'now.' It's modern... not so retro."
Stefani first planned to release what she called "L.A.M.B., Part 2" (see "Gwen Wants LP Out This Year, Finds Fashion Inspiration In 'Scarface' ") before she realized she was expecting, but put the album on hold late in 2005 (see "Gwen Stefani Holding Off On That Second Solo LP — For Now, Anyway"). Even though she had enough tracks for a double album, Stefani shelved a good chunk of material, including "Fine By You," the first song she wrote with Linda Perry; "Wonderful Life for Him," another Perry track featuring Depeche Mode's Martin Gore on guitar; "Parental Advisory," written with Rich Harrison; and "You Started It," a collaboration with Pharrell Williams.
But The Sweet Escape isn't just a bunch of reheated L.A.M.B. leftovers — it also includes tracks recorded over the past 18 months, mostly at sessions in Miami with Pharrell, who helped create "Wind It Up," "Orange County Girl," "Yummy," "Candyland" and "Breaking Up," which were showcased in Stefani's fashion shows as well as on tour (see "Gwen Previews New Songs, Clothing Line For Diddy, Kravitz, Others" and "Gwen Stefani Brings Solo Show To Hollywood 'Hometown' Crowd").
"I had my friend do a mash-up of 'The Sound of Music' with 'Wind It Up,' which we had just written for the first L.A.M.B. fashion show," Stefani said when she called in to Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM to give a sneak preview of the first single on Monday (October 23). "It was always a dream of mine to put 'Sound of Music' to a beat, because it was my favorite movie. I just thought, 'Wow, that would be amazing.' I literally cried, and I'm not exaggerating, when I heard the mash-up. And here we are, a year later, and it's the first single. Life is weird."
Stefani also reteamed with her No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal (who co-wrote "Fluorescent"), Dave Stewart and Nellee Hooper, and she paired up for the first time with Swizz Beatz, Sean Garrett, Akon (who produced and appears on the title track) and Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley. The least likely of all the singer's collaborators? Her mom, Patti, who inspired part of "Orange County Girl."
"I love that song, it's a sick song, it's a song I always needed to have," Stefani told MTV News, "but people are trying to post the lyrics, and they're getting the lyrics so wrong. I'm so proud of them, because it's so exactly like growing up in Orange County and how I got to this point. And reading them, someone had posted that I had copied what my mom said on 'Oprah.' My mom got asked something and she said, 'My daughter Gwen is just an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world.' And I went, 'She's right!' So I e-mailed my mom, 'I copied your lyrics, you need credit.' "
Simultaneously with the album, Stefani will release the concert DVD "Harajuku Lovers Live," which was filmed during shows in Anaheim, California. The live DVD will also feature two songs from The Sweet Escape.
Though the LP's release is imminent, Stefani is still finishing up the project. She's shooting the album artwork this week, on top of mixing the album itself. Sophie Muller is scheduled to direct a video for "Wind It Up" at the end of this month.
Stefani also plans to embark on a tour in April to support The Sweet Escape, in which she would play North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. "The last tour was really challenging for me, being that I was pregnant," Stefani told KIIS-FM. "I'm excited to go out there and have the baby on the outside."