Gwen Stefani is not Axl Rose. This is obvious, but bear with us. No Doubt didn't spend 11 years coming up with their new album because they were hiding out in L.A., pursuing some vainglorious artistic ideal, auditioning every expensive guitar-shredder in Southern California, or whatever. As the Diplo-produced title track and Santigold-en "Settle Down" promised, and our knee-jerk reviews of the leak mostly confirm, Push and Shove sounds like it took so long because No Doubt actually wanted to make a sleek, cleverly crafted, potentially saleable contemporary pop album. Tortured genius is so passé.
Nowhere are No Doubt's pop smarts more evident than on "Looking Hot" (via Just Jared), a muscular dance-pop twist on the eat-it-paparazzos theme that's way wilder than we would've had any right to expect it to be. "Go ahead and look at me / 'Cause that's what I want," Stefani commands haughtily in the opening seconds, instantly transferring the unrelatable woes of camera-stalked celebri-babes to every woman who has ever been looked at as well as everyone who has ever looked. Hey, mami.
Even No Doubt's excesses aim to please. Out of nowhere, there's a dubby, horn-injected reggae breakdown, where Stefani delivers the song's prospective "populate!" moment: "Go ahead and stare at my raggamuffin." We don't know what that means, but for crying out loud, Ms. Stefani, yes, hot, whatever, please don't hurt us. Cameras follow some stars because they're still stars, others because they fall down a lot.