December 06, 2004 12:00 PM

DANCE-POP

Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

CRITIC’S CHOICE

It’s official: Gwen Stefani is the new Madonna. (Sorry, Britney.) On the No Doubt frontwoman’s solo debut, Stefani, who already possessed the platinum hair and trendsetting style, gets into the ’80s dance-pop groove as if she were the Material Girl in her heyday. Echoes of 1983’s Madonna, 1984’s Like a Virgin and 1986’s True Blue are all over the deliriously fun Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (which is what L.A.M.B., Stefani’s fashion line, stands for), making this retro trip the party album of 2004. Stefani’s ’80s fixation—clearly, No Doubt’s remake of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” was a harbinger of things to come—doesn’t just end with Madonna. She recruits New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook as well as Wendy & Lisa (!) of Prince and the Revolution fame to play on the synth-pop gem “The Real Thing” (one of three songs that Stefani cowrote with Pink’s and Christina Aguilera’s collaborator Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes). And she bases the plush “Luxurious”—one of several odes to being a material girl—on the Isley Brothers’ 1983 slow-jam classic “Between the Sheets.” But Stefani also sounds fresh and even futuristic on tracks like the hip-hop/reggae mélange “Rich Girl,” which reunites her with “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” partner Eve, and the outrageously giddy “Bubble Pop Electric” (one of two cuts produced and cowritten by OutKast’s Andre 3000), which brings ’60s girl groups crashing into the 21st century.

• DOWNLOAD THIS: “Bubble Pop Electric”

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