A few weeks ago Pharrell Williams at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival declared that No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani was “making her arrival back to the music industry.”
She’s taking a detour through the television industry first.
Stefani appeared Monday night on NBC’s talent competition “The Voice,” appearing with Williams to reprise her mid-2000s hit “Hollaback Girl.” We know what Williams thinks of his pal and future co-judge on ‘The Voice.” “There’s only been one incredible, historical, most important, incredibly talented ... rad girl in the world,” he said to describe Stefani at Coachella.
That’s the sort of hyperbole that’s right at home on “The Voice,” where A-list judges gush week after week that no-name performers have just stunned them with one of the greatest interpretations of “River Deep Mountain High” ever recorded. But “The Voice” isn’t really about the contestants; it’s about the judges and how they respond to the raw talent before them.
It’s a better vehicle for relaunching a career than starting one, where familiarity fares better than originality. So the big, spacious, marching band-like beats of “Hollaback Girl” fared relatively well, despite being a decade old (the “b-a-n-a-n-a-s” is still, however, silly). But that likely says more about the durability of Williams’ less-is-more approach to production than any specific choice Stefani made.
Williams, in fact, stole the mini-show on “The Voice.” Well, more specifically, his fashion sense, and no, not his hat. The producer-singer-rapper sported a red Mickey Mouse sweater, and while the cynical among us may wonder if that was a bit of product placement, the only brand being built was Williams’ own.
As pop stars around Williams get more sexually aggressive — witness current “Voice” judge Usher with his leave-nothing-to-the-imagination single “Good Kisser” — Williams continues to push his dweeb-meets-cool vibe, which tempers any sort of raunchiness with an aw-shucks appeal.
Besides, if he really wanted to shill, he’d be sporting a “Despicable Me” sweater, but it’s doubtful even a pop star can pull off bright yellow on national television.