Hollaback Girl

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"Hollaback Girl"
A collage of shots from the single's music video, portraying Stefani.
Single by Gwen Stefani
from the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Released March 15, 2005 (2005-03-15)
Format
Recorded 2004
Right Track Recording
(New York City, New York)
Genre Hip hop
Length 3:19
Label Interscope
Writer(s)
Producer(s) The Neptunes
Gwen Stefani singles chronology
"Rich Girl"
(2004)
"Hollaback Girl"
(2005)
"Cool"
(2005)

"Hollaback Girl" is a song recorded by American singer Gwen Stefani for her debut studio album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (2004). As part of Stefani's vision of creating "a silly dance record",[1] "Hollaback Girl" is a hip hop song that draws influence from 1980s hip hop and dance 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 10 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, but lost in both categories. The single divided pop music critics, with some praising its minimalistic production and others declaring it embarrassing; men's magazine Maxim called it the "Most Annoying Song Ever". In the United States, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and was ranked at number two on the Year-End Hot 100. The recording topped the charts in Australia and reached the top ten in several other countries, including Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It has since been certified platinum in United States by the RIAA, and in Australia by ARIA.

A music video representing Stefani as a cheerleader at a California high school was released on March 21, 2005, and was directed by Paul Hunter. The visual received four nominations at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, and ultimately won for Best Choreography. The singer has performed "Hollaback Girl" on numerous occasions, including on all three of her concert tours, and on several televised appearances.

Writing and inspiration[edit]

Stefani had worked with The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) during the early stages of writing songs, including "Hollaback Girl", for her debut solo album 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 Seventeen magazine: "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 to Love's comments 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 positively to the "catcalls" or hollers of men, but it might mean to Stefani that she would rather take the initiative and "step it up".[7]

Composition[edit]

"Hollaback Girl" is a hip hop song[8] that draws influence from 1980s hip hop and dance music.[9] It is a moderately fast song, with a tempo of 110 beats per minute, and it is played in the key of D minor.[10] Like the majority of pop music, it is set in common time. The main chord pattern of the song alternates between B major and D minor triads.[10] 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[11] produced by drum machine.[12][13] 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".[14][15]

Critical reception[edit]

Stefani performing "Hollaback Girl" on the Harajuku Lovers Tour

"Hollaback Girl" received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. Yahoo! Music's Jennifer Nine described it as a "stomping, stripped-back" track,[16] and Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic noted that it had the "thumping, minimal beats" of The Neptunes.[12] Richard Smirke of Playlouder called it "a trademark Neptunes hip-hop stomp."[17] 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'."[18] Blender listed it as the 11th best song of 2005,[19] 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.[20]

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".[21] 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."[22] Nick Sylvester of Pitchfork 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".[23] However, despite this initial review, Pitchfork would later place the track at number 35 on its list of the Top 50 Singles of 2005,[24] and at number 180 on its list of The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s.[25] 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.[26]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Hollaback Girl" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 82 on the issue dated April 2, 2005,[27] and within six weeks of its release, it had reached the top of the chart,[28] becoming Stefani's first US number one.[29] It replaced 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" featuring Olivia, which had spent the previous nine weeks at number one on the chart. It maintained the number-one position for four weeks.[30] "Hollaback Girl" ranked second on the 2005 Hot 100 year-end chart, beaten by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together".[31] "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.[32] It peaked at number one on the Billboard Pop 100 chart for eight weeks,[33] and at number 15 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.[34] 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.[34]

The song was noted for having a large number of digital downloads, becoming the first single to sell more digital downloads than CDs.[35] 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;[35][36] it was certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[37] It was later re-certified platinum, for the same sales, due to the change of the RIAA certification criteria for singles.[38] (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.)[39] On the year-end list for Hot Digital Songs in 2005, "Hollaback Girl" topped chart.[40]

"Hollaback Girl" was successful in Canada, where the song debuted and peaked at number 12 on the Canadian Singles Chart.[41] However, Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), 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.[42] Columnist Michael Geist disputed the comparison, arguing that the Canadian online music market was still developing.[43] The song was released in Australia on May 23, 2005, debuting at number one on the ARIA Singles Chart,[44] and in Europe on June 6, 2005, reaching number five on the European Hot 100 Singles.[45] 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.[46] Although its UK success was limited, it remained in the top 40 for an additional 11 weeks.[46] The single was largely successful across Europe, reaching the top five in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland, and the top 10 in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.[47]

Music video[edit]

Stefani on a Chevrolet Impala with the album cover art

The music video for "Hollaback Girl" was directed by Paul Hunter and filmed in the Van Nuys and Reseda neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California.[48] 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.[48][49] 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.[50] 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.[48] 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. The car was, eventually, 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.[51] It debuted on MTV's Total Request Live on March 31 at number 10 and remained on the program for a total of 50 days,[52] becoming what Rolling Stone called "a staple of MTV's TRL".[53] The video reached the top of the chart[54] and was retired at number four on June 23, becoming Stefani's first video to retire.[55] VH1 listed the video at number five on its Top 40 Videos of 2005,[56] and at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, the video received four nominations,[57] but only won the award for Best Choreography.[58] 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.[59] 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."[59]

Live performances[edit]

Stefani performing "Hollaback Girl" in 2007 at The Sweet Escape Tour.

Stefani has performed "Hollaback Girl" on several occasions, including on two of her concert tours, in addition to several appearances on television shows. During the majority of the 2005 Harajuku Lovers Tour, Stefani sang the single as an encore performance, where she wore a drumming costume and encouraged the audience to sing along with her.[60] However, in earlier shows, before the single's success, she sang it before tracks "Serious" and "Bubble Pop Electric".[61][62] At the The Sweet Escape Tour, which prompted her sophomore studio album The Sweet Escape (2006), she performed the song in the middle of the show wearing sparkly red shorts and an argyle jacket atop a L.A.M.B. black and white shirt. She also sported a belt buckle featuring the "G" motif frequently used in The Sweet Escape.[63]

When Stefani agreed to be a judge on season 7 of the American reality series The Voice, she sung the track in May 2014 alongside Williams, who would also be appearing on the show as a judge.[64] For the rendition, Stefani wore a black jumpsuit in contrast to Williams, who wore a Mickey Mouse-sweater and jeans.[65][66] The performance prompted the song to enter the Billboard Pop Digital Songs component chart, where it re-entered at number thirty-four.[67] On the May 4, 2016, episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Stefani sang a snippet of the song alongside James Corden in his show's segment "Carpool Karaoke".[68] In addition to Stefani and Corden, actor George Clooney and actress Julia Roberts sang along; when the song concluded, Clooney stated "this shit's bananas".[69] More recently, the single was included on her 2016 concert series This Is What the Truth Feels Like Tour.[70]

Track listings[edit]

Remixes[edit]

Diplo made a remix for the track after M.I.A. turned down an offer to produce one.[74] 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. Additionally, it appears as a single on the 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,[75] and was featured on his song "Allnighter". Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship also recorded a parody of the song titled "Hollaback Boy".[76]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Love. Angel. Music. Baby.[77]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[117] Platinum 70,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[118] Gold 5,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[119] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[38] Platinum 1,000,000^

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

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]