Hollaback Girl

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"Hollaback Girl"
Single by Gwen Stefani
from the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Released March 15, 2005 (2005-03-15)
Format
Recorded
Genre
Length 3:20
Label Interscope
Writer(s)
Producer(s) The Neptunes
Gwen Stefani singles chronology
  • "Hollaback Girl"
  • (2005)
Music sample

"Hollaback Girl" is a song by American recording artist Gwen Stefani from her debut solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (2004). As part of Stefani's vision of creating "a silly dance record",[1] the song is influenced by 1980s dance and pop music. The song was written by Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Chad Hugo as a response to Courtney Love's statement that Stefani was a "cheerleader" in an interview with Seventeen magazine.

The song was released as the album's third single on March 15, 2005, and was one of the year's most popular songs, peaking inside the top ten on the majority of the charts it entered. It reached number one in Australia and the United States, where it became the first digital download to sell one million copies. "Hollaback Girl" received several award nominations, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year at the 48th Grammy Awards, yet it divided pop music critics. The CD single bears a "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" label, although the album does not.

Writing and inspiration[edit]

Stefani had worked with The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) during the early stages of writing Love. Angel. Music. Baby.; however, a case of writer's block resulted in reportedly uninspired collaborations.[2] As the album neared completion, Stefani regained her confidence and booked another session with The Neptunes. Stefani flew to New York City to meet up with Williams, and after finishing two songs within a week, Stefani ended the session early and prepared to return home. A few minutes later, Williams called her back into the studio to write another song. Stefani said, "I was tired. I wanted to go home, but he was like, 'Don't leave yet.'"[3] When she returned to the studio, Williams began to play Stefani his first solo album, and she became envious.[2] Excited by his material, she decided to write another song with Williams, despite her opinion that the album already contained far too many tracks.[3]

To search for inspiration, Stefani and Williams had a lengthy discussion in which Stefani said that she had yet to write a song about her intentions for pursuing a solo career. She remarked how the album was missing an "attitude song", and she recalled a derogatory comment that grunge musician Courtney Love had made about her in an interview with teen magazine Seventeen.

Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker shed.[4][5]

Stefani responded in the March 2005 issue of the NME:

Y'know someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively, and I've never been a cheerleader. So I was, like, "OK, fuck you. You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I'll rule the whole world, just you watch me."[5]

Stefani believed that some of the fans of No Doubt would be upset with her solo effort, commenting, "[They] were probably like, 'Why is she doing this record? She's going to ruin everything'."[2] She revealed that she too did not know why she was recording a solo album. For the remainder of the evening, Stefani and Williams incorporated this inspiration into the lyrics that eventually became "Hollaback Girl". The two decided that Stefani did not have to have an answer for her intentions and that the choices she made were based on what she felt was wrong or right.[2] On its creation, Stefani said, "To me, it is the freshest attitude song I've heard in so long." Williams was pleased with the song, commenting, "Gwen is like the girl in high school who just had her own style."[3]

Because Stefani never disclosed the song title's meaning, reviewers came up with various interpretations. In a satirical, line-by-line analysis of the song's lyrics, OC Weekly critic Greg Stacy humorously speculated that "Gwen is apparently the captain of the cheerleader squad; she is the girl who 'hollas' the chants, not one of the girls who simply 'hollas' them back".[6] The most commonly accepted meaning is that a hollaback girl responds to a confrontation with words but that Stefani would rather take initiative and "step it up".[citation needed] However, the term can be traced to American construction workers of the 1940s used to denigrate females that would positively respond to their "catcalls" or hollers.[7]

Music and structure[edit]

The riff and chord pattern alternating between B major (I) and D♯ minor (iii{}^6_4). About this sound Play 

"Hollaback Girl" is a moderately fast song, with a tempo of 110 beats per minute, and it is played in the key of D# minor.[8] It combines old school hip hop with dance music,[9] and—like the majority of pop music—is set in common time. The main chord pattern of the song alternates between B major and D minor triads.[8] Most of the harmonic content of the song revolves around a two-chord alternation which music theorists may regard as an L (leading tone) transformation, in which the root of the major chord is lowered by a half-step to form a second inversion minor chord on the third scale degree (see image to right), a slight tonicization of B major, but resolving back to D# minor by having the same A, a perfect fourth down from D#. This stepwise motion between B and A highlights this chord change. It is in verse-chorus form with a bridge before the fourth and final chorus. The song features sparse instrumentation, primarily a minimal beat[10] produced by drum machine.[11][12] A guitar plays the song's riff, a six-note pattern as Stefani repeats "this my shit" during the chorus, and a brass section joins during the second chorus.[7] In part because of its cheerleading motif, it drew comparisons to Toni Basil's 1982 song "Mickey".[13][14]

Critical reception[edit]

"Hollaback Girl" received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. Yahoo! Music's Jennifer Nine described it as a "stomping, stripped-back" track,[15] and Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic noted that it had the "thumping, minimal beats" of The Neptunes.[11] Richard Smirke of Playlouder called it "a trademark Neptunes hip-hop stomp."[16] In his review of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone gave the song a positive review, writing that "Stefani's gum-snapping sass brings out the beast in her beatmasters, especially the Neptunes in 'Hollaback Girl'."[17] Blender listed it as the eleventh best song of 2005,[18] and the song tied with Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock" for number five on the 2005 Pazz & Jop, a survey of several hundred music critics conducted by Robert Christgau.[19]

On the other hand, Jason Damas, in a review for PopMatters, felt that the song sounds "almost exactly like Dizzee Rascal", and added, "Lyrically, this is where Gwen sinks the lowest here, especially on a breakdown where she repeats, 'This shit is bananas / B-A-N-A-N-A-S!' several times".[20] Eric Greenwood of Drawer B called the song "moronic and embarrassingly tuneless. I'd quote the lyrics, but they're so bad, I almost feel sorry for her. A 35-year-old woman singing about pom-poms and 'talking shit' in high school betrays such a delusional self-image that it's hard not to be taken aback. And on top of that, The Neptunes' beats are clunky and the production is senselessly bombastic."[21] Nick Sylvester of Pitchfork Media also criticized the track, referring to it as a "Queen pastiche [...] which has about as much club potential as a 13-year old with a milk moustache and his dad's ID".[22] However, despite this initial review, Pitchfork Media would later place the track at number thirty-five on its list of the Top 50 Singles of 2005,[23] and at number 180 on its list of The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s.[24] Maxim was unimpressed with the song, and in its October 2005 issue, published a list of the "20 Most Annoying Songs Ever" with "Hollaback Girl" in first place.[25] In 2010, Matthew Wilkening of AOL Radio ranked the song at number sixteen on the list of the 100 Worst Songs Ever, commenting that "[o]ften, Gwen puts a twist on a musical idea [from Fiddler on the Roof] and nails it" with "Rich Girl", while "Hollaback Girl" "[r]eminds us [of] what we hated about high school."[26]

"Hollaback Girl" was mocked on an episode of the animated television series Family Guy titled "Deep Throats"; after watching a VH1 special about Stefani, Brian Griffin states, "I don't know what a Hollaback Girl is. All I know is that I want her dead."[27] The song was mocked again in another episode of Family Guy, this time in the guise of a parody of the feature film The Shawshank Redemption. In the film, Red (played by Morgan Freeman), upon hearing the duettino "Sull'aria" (from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro) for the first time, states that he has no idea what the women are singing about, but imagines it must be something beautiful. In the parody, Cleveland Brown (playing the role of Red) hears "Hollaback Girl" and likewise claims to have no idea what Stefani is singing about—even though the lyrics are not in a foreign language (as is the issue in the film). Cleveland imagines it is "a foul, disease-ridden thing, that wears too much makeup to cover up the fact that it's a 47 year-old fish-dog".

The beginning of the song was used at the intro music for Mai's Blog, a series of mock-vlog entries by self-centred, mean-spirited Mai, broadcast as a segment of the fourth season of the Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet.

The song's bridge, in which Stefani exclaims "This shit is bananas" and then proceeds to spell bananas, was later parodied in an episode of the claymation television show Celebrity Deathmatch, in which Stefani spells out bananas, broccoli, and kumquat during an interview with Tally Wong.[28]

Chart performance[edit]

Stefani performing "Hollaback Girl" on the Harajuku Lovers Tour 2005.

The single was officially solicited to radio in North America on April 5, 2005, although the music video had been released two weeks earlier, on March 21. "Hollaback Girl" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number eighty-two on the issue dated April 2, 2005,[29] and within six weeks of its release, it had reached the top of the chart, making it the fastest-rising single to reach the top in 2005; it also became Stefani's first US number one.[30] It maintained the number-one position for four weeks.[31] The single spent thirty-one weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, twenty-nine of which were in the top fifty.[30] On the 2005 year-end chart, the song was the second most successful single, beaten by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together".[32]

"Hollaback Girl" held the record for most US radio airplays in one week, with 9,582 plays, and maintained this feat for over a year before Shakira and Wyclef Jean's "Hips Don't Lie" overtook the position.[33] It peaked at number one on the Billboard Pop 100 for eight weeks,[34] and was a small success in the dance clubs, peaking at number fifteen on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.[35] The song was a crossover success, and reached number four on the Rhythmic Top 40 and number eight on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[35]

The song was noted for having a large number of digital downloads, becoming the first single to sell more digital downloads than CDs.[36] In October 2005, "Hollaback Girl" was the first single to ever sell one million digital downloads and later went on to sell a total of 1.2 million downloads;[36][37] it was certified 5× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[38] It was later re-certified Platinum, for the same sales, due to the change of the RIAA certification criteria for singles.[39] (The number of sales required to qualify for gold and platinum discs was lower for digital singles prior to August 2006. The thresholds were 100,000 units (gold) and 200,000 units (platinum), reflecting an increase in digital downloads.)[40] Due to its downloads, it reached number one on both digital sales charts concurrently, and it topped the Hot Digital Songs year-end chart.[41]

"Hollaback Girl" was successful in Canada, where the song debuted at number twelve on the Canadian Singles Chart; however, it fell from there and was unable to reach a higher position.[42] It remained in the top fifty for six months.[42] However, Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, later argued that based on Canada's population relative to the US, the single should have sold around 120,000 copies and that the comparatively lower sales of 25,000 were a sign that the Canadian copyright law should be tightened to discourage non-commercial peer-to-peer file sharing.[43] Columnist Michael Geist disputed the comparison, arguing that the Canadian online music market was still developing.[44]

Stefani and the Harajuku Girls performing "Hollaback Girl" on The Sweet Escape Tour.

In the rest of the world, reaction to "Hollaback Girl" was generally positive, though not as overwhelming as in North America. It was released in Australia on May 23, 2005, debuting at number one,[45] and in Europe on June 6, 2005, debuting at number twenty-two and eventually reaching number five on the European Hot 100 Singles.[46] In the United Kingdom, however, "Hollaback Girl" did not perform as well as Stefani's previous releases. The song's predecessors, "What You Waiting For?" and "Rich Girl", had both reached number four, while "Hollaback Girl" debuted at number eight, and stalled at the same position the following week.[47] Although its UK success was limited, it remained in the top forty for an additional eleven weeks and outsold "Rich Girl".[47] The single was largely successful across Europe, reaching the top five in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland, and the top ten in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.[48]

Music video[edit]

Stefani on a Chevrolet Impala with the album cover art.

The music video was directed by Paul Hunter and filmed in the Van Nuys and Reseda neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California.[49] The video opens with a scene of Stefani spending time with her Harajuku Girls, when a crowd of students appears. Stefani and the Harajuku Girls then drive down Sherman Way past Magnolia Science Academy to Birmingham High School in a 1961 Chevrolet Impala, accompanied by the crowd.[49][50] Stefani and the group cause a commotion when they disrupt a football game by walking onto the field and when they go to a 99 Cents Only Store and throw cereal and other food products down an aisle. Throughout the video, there are intercut sequences of choreographed dancing filmed in a sound stage, intended to represent Stefani's imagination.[51] Stefani and the Harajuku Girls are outfitted in cheerleading uniforms, accompanied by several Californian spirit groups: the Orange Crush All Stars, a cheerleading squad from Orange County; a marching band from Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley; a pep flag team named the Carson High School Flaggies from Carson; and a drill team from Stephen M. White Middle School in Carson.[49] To visualize the song's bridge, the Harajuku Girls spell the word "bananas" with cue cards. The video ends with a close-up frame of Stefani with her arms in the air.

The Chevy Impala convertible from the video includes a painting by artist J. Martin.[5] The design includes Stefani as seen on the album cover of Love. Angel. Music. Baby. with the words "Hollaback Girl" in calligraphy. Eventually, the car was sold on eBay.[5] Pharrell Williams, one of the song's co-producers, makes a cameo appearance. The complete version of "Hollaback Girl" featured in the music video was released commercially through CD singles and digital downloads, and some include remixes by Diplo and Tony Kanal.

The video debuted on March 21, 2005 and proved successful on video chart programs.[52] It debuted on MTV's Total Request Live on March 31 at number ten and remained on the program for a total of fifty days,[53] becoming what Rolling Stone called "a staple of MTV's TRL".[54] The video reached the top of the chart[55] and was retired at number four on June 23, becoming Stefani's first video to retire.[56] It also reached the top of MuchMusic's Countdown three months after its debut, and remained there for two weeks.[42] VH1 listed the video at number five on its Top 40 Videos of 2005,[57] and at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, the video received four nominations,[58] but only won the award for Best Choreography.[59] Stefani did not attend the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, prompting rumors that she was protesting her lack of nominations the previous year, her multiple losses to Kelly Clarkson, and her not having been asked to perform.[60] Stefani denied the rumors, responding, "the only reason I am not attending the MTV Video Music Awards is because I will be recording and spending time with my family."[60]

Live performances[edit]

"Hollaback Girl" was featured on Stefani's concert tours Harajuku Lovers Tour (2005) and The Sweet Escape Tour (2007). The song was also performed at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.

Track listings[edit]

Elan's appearance on the remix includes a verse directed at Courtney Love.

Problems playing this file? See media help.
  • European CD single
  1. "Hollaback Girl" (Album Version) – 3:20
  2. "Hollaback Girl" (Hollatronix Remix by Diplo) – 2:44
  • European CD maxi single
  1. "Hollaback Girl" (Album Version) – 3:20
  2. "Hollaback Girl" (Hollatronix Remix by Diplo) – 2:44
  3. "Hollaback Girl" (Instrumental) – 3:20
  4. "Hollaback Girl" (Video) – 3:20
  • US 12" single
A1. "Hollaback Girl" (Dancehollaback Remix featuring Elan) – 6:53
A2. "Hollaback Girl" (Dancehollaback Remix Clean featuring Elan) – 6:52
A3. "Hollaback Girl" (Dancehollaback Remix Radio featuring Elan) – 4:02
B1. "Hollaback Girl" (Hollatronic Remix) – 2:44
B2. "Hollaback Girl" (Dancehollaback Remix Instrumental) – 6:50
B3. "Hollaback Girl" (Dancehollaback Remix A Capppella) – 6:19

Remixes[edit]

Diplo made a remix for the track after M.I.A. turned down an offer to produce one.[61] Tony Kanal, fellow No Doubt member, produced a remix titled the Dancehollaback Remix. The track features reggae singer Elan Atias, whose debut album Kanal produced, and appears as a single on iTunes, on the CD single for "Cool", and on the bonus CD of the deluxe edition of Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Stefani later requested to contribute vocals on "I Wanna Yell" from Atias's debut album Together as One,[62] and was featured on his song "Allnighter". Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship also recorded a parody of this song titled "Hollaback Boy".[63]

Personnel[edit]

Source:[64]

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Format
Australia March 15, 2005 Universal Music CD single, digital download
New Zealand
Canada April 5, 2005
United States Interscope Records
Ireland June 21, 2005 Polydor Records
United Kingdom
Continental Europe July 2, 2005 Universal Music

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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