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Free the Gwenihana Four: Gwen's buttery features are protected by four Asian sunblockers.

Go Dumb

How guilty pleasures disengage brain from body

By Todd Inoue

THE GWEN STEFANI song "Hollaback Girl" is like an old wine cooler fermenting at the back of the fridge—a sweet-tasting intoxicant that comes in handy when one wants to get loose on the cheap. I hate it so much I listened to it 11 times in a row at work—and on repeat on the way home, just to be sure. Then, when it came on in a club recently, the place went predictably ballistic (I joined in, just to play along). The girls danced in a circle and yelled out the catch line, "I ain't no hollaback girrrl; I ain't no hollaback girrrl!" When I see girls going wild to the track, tapping into their whole superego thing, it's a beautiful thing.

So allow me to clarify: I maintain a love/hate relationship with "Hollaback Girl." I love the Neptunes' cafeteria-table beat with the second-line horns. It's like a 2005 version of Toni Basil's "Mickey" or Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"—a disengage brain/engage ass song that unabashedly proclaims its intentions. And Gwen owns the song from pillar to post. It's the No. 1 single on Billboard and iTunes, and deservedly so.

That said, I hate the way she says, "Ooooh, this my shit, this my shit" on the hook like some braided crank head on Jerry Springer. The lyrics won't win any awards for depth either. It's lyrical butter face, like finding a superfine girl who talks like Brad Gluckman from Malibu's Most Wanted. "Hollaback Girl" is some of the most ridiculous nonsense spewed since LFO's "Summer Girls." Read them like James Lipton would: "I heard that you were talking shit, and you didn't think that I would hear it/ People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up/ So I'm ready to attack, gonna lead the pack, gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out/ That's right, put your pompons down, getting everybody fired up."

I also have a less-pronounced love/hate thing with the Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)." The beat is the hottest bedrock to fall from Atlanta in years. DJ Smurf marinated bass in ether and produced an instrumental bed strikingly similar to the Neptunes/Snoop collabo "Drop It Like It's Hot." The lyrics, like Stefani, dumb it down even further. The narrative is driven by the rappers (Kaine and D-Roc) whisperin' in a girl's ear at the club. With a chorus that goes "Wait'll you see my dick," this song is so bleeped on the radio that stations should just play the instrumental and be done with it.

The most troublesome part of "Wait" is when the boys chant a rather off-putting braggadocious hook: "Beat the pussy up, beat the pussy up." The equating of sex with violence is obviously a big turnoff. Conscious hip-hop heads and normal upright citizens may find its vernacular usage offensive and they'd be right. A number of editorials have questioned the propriety of such lines making it into pop radio. Therein lies the double standard: hair-metal bands and country artists have long espoused less-than-favorable treatment of women and suffered far less than rap artists do. Does it make it right? No way. That said, do women lose their minds when it comes on in the club? Hell, yes. "Wait" fits nicely alongside Snoop's "Ain't No Fun" and 2 Live Crew's "Hoochie Mama" in the Guilty Pleasure Hall of Shame where brain and ass disengage and fly off in separate directions.

What both "Hollaback Girl" and "Wait" have in common, besides generous bleeping, is a welcome sparseness. They aren't masked by frills—it's all hot beats and hot words sung (or whispered) by forceful personalities. Play them back to back, and an odd symbiotic relationship appears—as if "Hollaback Girl" is the response to "Wait."

A few answer songs to "Hollaback Girl" are floating around on MP3, and rapper Jacki-O recently flipped a verse on the "Wait" remix where she matches their machismo and changes the chorus to a whispered "Wait'll you see my clit." Damn, what's next? Let's not speculum, er, speculate.


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From the May 25-31, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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