The Sweet Escape

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This article is about the album. For the song, see The Sweet Escape (song).
The Sweet Escape
Studio album by Gwen Stefani
Released December 1, 2006 (2006-12-01)
Recorded 2005–06
Genre
Length 47:46
Label Interscope
Producer
Gwen Stefani chronology
  • The Sweet Escape
  • (2006)
Singles from The Sweet Escape
  1. "Wind It Up"
    Released: October 13, 2006 (2006-10-13)
  2. "The Sweet Escape"
    Released: December 20, 2006 (2006-12-20)
  3. "4 in the Morning"
    Released: June 22, 2007 (2007-06-22)
  4. "Now That You Got It"
    Released: August 26, 2007 (2007-08-26)
  5. "Early Winter"
    Released: January 18, 2008 (2008-01-18)

The Sweet Escape is the second studio album by American recording artist Gwen Stefani. It was released on December 1, 2006 by Interscope Records. Having originally intended to return to No Doubt after her 2004 solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Stefani decided to record a second album as a way to release some of the material left over from the L.A.M.B. writing sessions. The album musically resembles its predecessor while exploring more modern pop sounds. It was released to generally mixed reviews from contemporary music critics, receiving criticism for its strong similarities to L.A.M.B.

It was preceded by the lead single "Wind It Up", which charted moderately across the world, and produced the follow-up single "The Sweet Escape", which proved more successful worldwide. The Sweet Escape reached the top five in the United States, Canada, and Australia and peaked inside the top twenty in the United Kingdom. The Sweet Escape Tour, started in April 2007, covered North America, South America, Australia, Asia, and Europe.

Conception[edit]

Background[edit]

Following the release of her debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Stefani announced that she had intended to return to No Doubt and record a sixth studio album with the band.[3] After the commercial success of L.A.M.B., she decided to release several leftover tracks from the album as an EP or as extra tracks on a DVD.[4] However, Pharrell Williams, with whom she had collaborated to write "Hollaback Girl", convinced Stefani to create "a L.A.M.B. part two",[4] and the two recorded several songs during sessions in Miami in July 2005.[5]

The two produced "Wind It Up", "Orange County Girl", "U Started It", "Yummy", "Breaking Up", and "Candyland" during these sessions, and the songs were used for a fashion show premiering the 2006 collection of Stefani's fashion line L.A.M.B.[6] She included performances of "Wind It Up" and "Orange County Girl" when she embarked on the Harajuku Lovers Tour in October 2005.[7] Stefani put the project on hold in December 2005 when she discovered that she was pregnant,[8] before returning to the studio in August 2006.[9] The album's working title was Candyland, sharing its name with an unreleased track that has only been looped via her fashion show soundtrack. The title was changed to The Sweet Escape, the title of the second track, to emphasize the album's themes of wanting to escape to a better life.[10]

Album cover[edit]

The album cover was taken by photographer Jill Greenberg. The image was part of a series of promotional images taken by Greenberg, inspired by her previous End Times exhibition. To create End Times, Greenberg gave lollipops to toddlers but took them back after several moments, provoking emotional outbursts. Greenberg used the images as a representation of American politics and society.[11] Greenberg was accused of child abuse for the photo shoots; Stefani, however, commented, "I didn't think 'child abuse'—I just thought, 'That's beautiful.' Every kid cries," she asserts, and as if on cue, Kingston pipes up in the next room. " Other people reacted like, 'Oh my God. That's so disturbing,' or 'That's so sad.' I guess that's what art's all about. It's supposed to make you think."[12]

Stefani's appearance on the album cover is inspired by that of Elvira Hancock, a cocaine addict portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1983 film Scarface. Stefani first gained inspiration for the style while shooting the music video for "Cool" in Lake Como, Italy. During the shoot, Stefani saw her No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal and his girlfriend, who had on a "long, peach, polyester [late-1970s style] dress". It was this dress that got Stefani thinking "about Michelle Pfeiffer and how amazingly styled she was [in Scarface]", which in turn drew inspiration for the cover.[13] The pair of oversized sunglasses on the album cover is intended to represent her "guarded exterior", and the other images symbolize her various emotions.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 58/100[15]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[16]
Entertainment Weekly B−[17]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[1]
The New York Times unfavorable[18]
NME 4/10[19]
The Observer 3/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork Media 6.5/10[21]
PopMatters 4/10[22]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[23]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[2]

The Sweet Escape received mixed responses from critics.[24] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 58, based on 24 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[15] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote, "From the stilted production to the fashion fetish, all the way down to her decision to rap on far too much of the album, all the dance-pop here seems like a pose."[16] Alex Miller's review for the NME was more emphatic, dubbing it "this year's bargain-bin fodder", and stated that "the majority of this record serves only to bury what made Gwen Stefani unique in the first place."[19] In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Sia Michel noted that the album "has a surprisingly moody, lightly autobiographical feel" but that "Stefani isn't convincing as a dissatisfied diva".[17] Pitchfork Media's Mark Pytlik described the album's oddities as a career risk for Stefani, where most of the "gonzo pop songs yield some degree of payout" but that Stefani's tight scheduling during production of the album leaves the result "somewhere between the vanguard and the insipid."[21] Paul Flynn of The Observer, however, characterized the album as less interesting than Fergie's The Dutchess and Nelly Furtado's Loose.[20] Robert Christgau cited the song "Yummy" as a "choice cut" ((choice cut)).[25]

The album received criticism for its similarities to Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine opined that "[h]istory will likely view The Sweet Escape as a retread of Stefani's well-received solo debut, but it shares that album's general inconsistency and, thus, its peaks and valleys".[2] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone agreed, viewing it as "her hasty return" to music lacking the energy of L.A.M.B. and in which "she sounds exhausted."[23] The New York Times' Jon Pareles commented that Stefani "rebooks some of the same producers and repeats some of the old tricks with less flair", adding that "superficiality is more fun when it doesn't get so whiny."[18] Caroline Sullivan disagreed in her review for The Guardian, in which she stated that although some of the songs date back to the 2003 writing sessions for L.A.M.B., "generally The Sweet Escape feels minty-fresh."[1] PopMatters' review by Quentin B. Huff, however, referred to The Sweet Escape as L.A.M.B.: Reloaded and described The Sweet Escape and L.A.M.B. as "the same album, just add more rap, a glossy Next-Top-Model-ish photo for the cover, and a few more recent-sounding influences."[22]

Commercial performance[edit]

The Sweet Escape was moderately successful in North America, but did not match the success of its predecessor. The album sold 243,000 copies in the United States during its first week, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200,[26] It sold another 149,000 copies during its second week, falling to number fourteen.[27] The record has since been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America,[28] and had sold 1.7 million copies in the US by May 2009.[29] The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) certified The Sweet Escape platinum eight days prior to the album's release, and double platinum on March 5, 2007.[30]

In the United Kingdom, The Sweet Escape debuted at number twenty-six on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 33,632 copies.[31] Three months later, on March 4, 2007, the album reached a new peak position of number fourteen.[32] It was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on July 22, 2013.[33] The album saw modest success across Europe, peaking in the top ten in Norway and Switzerland; the top twenty in Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, and Sweden; and the top forty in Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.[34][35][36] The Sweet Escape reached number two for two consecutive weeks on the ARIA Albums Chart,[37] and was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[38]

The Sweet Escape Tour[edit]

Main article: The Sweet Escape Tour

The Sweet Escape Tour was Stefani's follow-up to the Harajuku Lovers Tour. It went worldwide as compared to her previous tour which was constricted only to North America and had more than double the number of shows. It was Stefani's last solo effort as she rejoined her band No Doubt after the tour ended.[39] The main feature were usage of various props such as a prison for Stefani's opening act, a six-piece band and a large multimedia screen in the backdrop showing videos and animations.[40]

Stefani performing "Wind It Up" during the 2007 Sweet Escape Tour.

The tour had its own set of controversies. A group of students making up for The National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students, banned Stefani's concert that was slated to take place August 21, 2007 at Putra Indoor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. The union's vice president, Abdul Muntaqim, said, "Her performance and her attire are not suitable for our culture. It promotes a certain degree of obscenity and will encourage youth to emulate the western lifestyle. The concert should be stopped." The organizer of the event, Maxis Communications, later responded, "Stefani has confirmed that her concert will not feature any revealing costumes. She will abide by the Malaysian authorities' guidelines to ensure that her show will not be offensive to local sensitivities."[41] In April, Akon drew criticism for engaging in on-stage dirty dancing with a fourteen-year-old girl, at a club in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, as part of a fake contest.[42][43] As a result, Verizon Wireless terminated its sponsorship of the tour.[44]

Stefani donated $166,000 from her October 30, 2007 concert in San Diego to the San Diego Foundation, in benefit of the victims of the October 2007 California wildfires.[45] On her June 22 and June 23 concerts in Irvine, California, Stefani was joined onstage by her No Doubt bandmates. They performed the band's songs "Just a Girl", "Spiderwebs", "Sunday Morning", "Hella Good" and their cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life".[46]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Wind It Up"   3:09
2. "The Sweet Escape" (featuring Akon)
  • Thiam
  • Tuinfort[b]
4:06
3. "Orange County Girl"  
  • Stefani
  • Williams
The Neptunes 3:23
4. "Early Winter"  
4:44
5. "Now That You Got It"  
2:59
6. "4 in the Morning"  
  • Kanal
  • Stent[a]
4:51
7. "Yummy" (featuring Pharrell)
  • Stefani
  • Williams
The Neptunes 4:57
8. "Fluorescent"  
  • Stefani
  • Kanal
Kanal, Stent[a] 4:18
9. "Breakin' Up"  
  • Stefani
  • Williams
The Neptunes 3:46
10. "Don't Get It Twisted"  
  • Stefani
  • Kanal
  • Kanal
  • Stent[a]
3:37
11. "U Started It"  
  • Stefani
  • Williams
  • The Neptunes
  • Stent[a]
3:08
12. "Wonderful Life"  
  • Hooper
  • Stent[a]
3:58
Notes

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The Sweet Escape.[52]

  • Gwen Stefani – lead vocals
  • Akon – keyboards, production, programming, vocals (track 2)
  • Andrew Alekel – engineering (tracks 6, 8, 10)
  • Angel Aponte – additional engineering (track 5)
  • Trinka Baggetta – A&R coordination
  • Matt Beck – guitar (track 6)
  • Yvan Bing – assistant engineering (track 2)
  • Stephen Bradleybaritone, trumpet (track 10)
  • Julian Chan – engineering (track 8)
  • Jolie Clemens – art direction, layout
  • Andrew Coleman – engineering (tracks 7, 11)
  • Greg Collins – bass (track 4); engineering (tracks 4, 6, 8, 10, 12); guitar (track 6); additional vocal production (tracks 6, 10); additional vocals engineering (track 11)
  • Cindy Cooper – art and packaging coordination, photography
  • Pete Davis – additional keyboards, additional programming (tracks 1, 4–6, 8, 10–12)
  • Loren Dawson – keyboards (track 5)
  • Alex Dromgoole – assistant engineering (tracks 1, 2, 4–6, 8–12); guitar (tracks 8, 10); bass (track 10)
  • Bojan Dugic – engineering (track 2)
  • David Emery – assistant engineering (tracks 1, 2, 4–6, 8–12); guitar (track 8)
  • Ron Fair – orchestra production (track 1)
  • Jason Finkel – assistant engineering (track 11)
  • Nicole Frantz – art and packaging coordination, photography
  • Brian "Big Bass" Gardner – mastering
  • Sean Garrett – backing vocals, co-production (track 5)
  • Brian Garten – engineering (tracks 1, 3, 7, 9)
  • Simon Gogerly – engineering (track 12)
  • Mark "Exit" Goodchild – engineering (track 2)
  • Scheila Gonzalez – clarinet, flute, saxophone (track 10)
  • Martin Gore – guitar (track 12)
  • Jill Greenberg – fine art concept, photography
  • Keith Gretlein – engineering (track 2)
  • Hart Gunther – assistant engineering (tracks 1, 3, 9)
  • Richard Hawley – guitar (track 12)
  • Nellee Hooper – production (tracks 4, 12)
  • Jimmy Iovine – A&R direction
  • Neil Kanal – engineering, programming (tracks 6, 8, 10); keyboards (track 10)
  • Tony Kanal – keyboards, production, programming (tracks 6, 8, 10)
  • Ryan Kennedy – assistant engineering (track 7)
  • Anthony LoGerfo – percussion (track 10)
  • Aidan Love – programming (track 4)
  • Tony Love – guitar (track 2)
  • Gabrial McNair – keyboards (tracks 6, 8); baritone, trombone (track 10)
  • Jonathan Merritt – engineering (track 8)
  • Kevin Mills – engineering (tracks 2, 5); assistant engineering (track 12)
  • Colin Mitchell – engineering (tracks 6, 8, 10)
  • Dror Mohar – assistant engineering (tracks 6, 8, 10)
  • Angelo Moore – saxophone (track 8)
  • The Neptunes – production (tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 11)
  • Ewan Pearson – programming (track 12)
  • Pharrell – rap (track 7)
  • Glenn Pittman – assistant engineering (track 5)
  • Mark Ralph – guitar (track 4)
  • Tim Rice-Oxley – keyboards, piano (track 4)
  • Kingston James McGregor Rossdale – baby sounds (track 7)
  • Ian Rossiter – assistant engineering (tracks 4, 12)
  • Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing (tracks 1, 2, 4–6, 8–12); additional production (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 10–12)
  • Swizz Beatz – production (track 5)
  • Talent Bootcamp Kids – additional vocals (track 1)
  • Phil Tan – mixing (track 7)
  • Steve Tolle – assistant engineering (track 5)
  • Rich Travali – mixing (track 3)
  • Giorgio Tuinfort – co-production, keyboards, programming (track 2)
  • Mark Williams – A&R direction

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[38] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[30] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[90] Gold 20,000^
Germany (BVMI)[91] Gold 100,000^
Hungary (Mahasz)[92] Gold 3,000x
Japan (RIAJ)[93] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[94] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[95] Gold 20,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[96] Gold 10,000*
Russia (NFPF)[97] 2× Platinum 40,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[98] Platinum 30,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[28] Platinum 1,700,000[29]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label
Australia[51] December 1, 2006 Universal Music
Germany[99]
Netherlands[100]
France[101] December 4, 2006
United Kingdom[50] Polydor Records
United States[102] December 5, 2006 Interscope Records
Sweden[103] December 6, 2006 Universal Music
Italy[104] December 7, 2006
Japan[105] January 31, 2007

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