Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

First Hit #1: May 7, 2005

Cheerleading works in a sports context because it’s something of a distraction. The cheers are simple, but they have to be so they’re easy to pick up and chant by the assembled crowd. They don’t really have to last very long, and they have to be direct and shouted because they’re competing with the rest of the noise. This is not to discount what cheerleaders do – they keep a sports game entertaining during the off minutes, and they often feature impressive acrobatic displays as well as the cheers themselves – but cheers really only work in that context. That doesn’t mean cheers can’t be entertaining, or even that they can’t work in the context of a song – Toni Basil proved that much – but instead that it’s not something to build an entire pop tune around.

Hollaback Girl is not a great song, because it is just a cheer. The vocal style adopted, the simple drumline, the constant repetition, it’s trying for cheerleader. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t do that for an entire three minutes without it getting old fast. Mickey worked because there was a contrast – cheer chorus, sung verses – and the cheer itself was short, to the point, and not overused. Here, it’s just wearying, because it’s bouncing back between different kinds of cheers rather than giving any contrast. As well, due to its very nature it’s repetitive, and honestly pretty annoying. Like cheers themselves, it’s best in small doses. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of radio, it’s impossible to do an acrobatic display in between.

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2 Responses to Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

  1. RBerman says:

    The cheerleading part is mainly just the “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” part, as part of the overall school-themed lyric. The rest is a good example of hip-hop through and through, from the chanted vocals (of course), to the swaggering (and frequently censored) words, to the sparse, percussion-heavy backing with occasional repeated melodic figures, Gwen Stefani is a professional performer with no discernible attachment to either the power-ska (.e.g. “Spiderwebs”) or balladry (her mega-hit “Don’t Speak) that brought her to the public’s attention in the first place. Hip-hop is what moves units circa 2005, so that’s what she delivers, just as Hall and Oates moved from Blue Eyes Soul into New Wave at roughly the same time that the Doobie Brothers were moving from Country Rock into Blue Eyed Soul.

  2. Pingback: Fergie – London Bridge | We Are Number Ones

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