Single Review: Gwen Stefani “What You Waiting For?”

What You Waiting For?
Album: Love, Angel, Music, Baby.
Year: 2004

Tick. toc. Tick. toc. Not only is it the sound of Gwen Stefani’s 15 minutes ticking away but it’s a sample of some of the lyrics from her solo single, “What You Waiting For?”

Written by Linda Perry (Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” Pink’s “Family Portrait”), “What You Waiting For” is Stefani dealing with her insecurities. Again. First, it was getting Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale to marry her. Now, it’s her solo career.

The single opens with the a crowd cheering. In an affected voice, she says her time with No Doubt was “amazing” and time flew. But now, she’s on her own. (“What an amazing time/What a family/ How did the years go by?/Now it’s only me”). Then “tick toc” is repeated several times before the chorus begins.

Worried and stressed, she compares herself to feeling like she is in a driving a car blind. She thinks the media will have her be next self-destructing pop star and her agent is probably going over the risks of a solo career with her.(“Like a cat in heat stuck in a moving car/scary conversations/shut my eyes, can’t find the brake/what if they say you’re a climber?”). Well, going solo is one to bring fame and attention to only herself. Unless she’s on the cover of Us Weekly every week and wants to be known for her social life, she has nothing to worry about. However, if she keeps spewing nonsense like “Can you see them (harajuku girls)? Well you must be in my fantasy then? ‘Cause it’s only a part of my fantasy” then the paparazzi will follow.

She’s apprehensive about the solo career. However, she’s trying to tell herself it could be a good thing for her to do and she could become a better entertainer. (“Naturally i’m worried if i do it alone/Who really cares cuz it’s your life /You never know, it could be great/Take a chance cuz you might grow”).

Then in the chorus, she asks herself “what are you waiting for?” She then riducles herself and sings “take a chance, you stupid ho.” Stefani has some major self-esteem issues. If the lyric wasn’t serious it would be a great, campy lyric. However, since it’s how she really feels about herself, the lyric is joyless and sucks whatever fun that could be had.

She shows some self-awareness about her tendency to write about her insecurites and her popularity. She knows she could waste her potential and become a has-been. (“Like an echo pedal, you’re repeating yourself/You know it all by heart/Why are you standing in one place?/Born to blossom, bloom to perish”). ‘Born to blossom, bloom to perish’ is a surprising gem in the single. It feels like Stefani, on its own and random but deserving of much better material. It suggests Stefani can be the “It” girl. However, she’s destined to not to follow through on the hype because of her own issues. She’s going to tear herself down before the media and fans get a chance.

In a self-concious and uncertain voice, she sings that she knows she has to do the solo thing now while she’s still popular (“look at your watch now/you’re still a super hot female/you’ve got your million dollar contract/and they’re all waiting for your hot track”).

In the third verse, she sings that she wants to have fans in Japan. She also comments on the young Japanenese women dressing like Britney (pre-Kevin Federline) “I can’t wait to go
Back into Japan/Get me lots of brand new fans/Osaka, Tokyo/You Harajuku girls/Damn, you’ve got some wicked style”).

The single has an 80s flair to it. Stefani does her best imitation of Dale Consalvi (from the early 80s group Missing Persons) but ends up being Stacey Q without the chutzpah.

“What You Waiting For” would be a lot more entertaining if she had stuck to the tone of the third verse. She’s bubbly and cheeky and not at all serious – the way dance music is supposed to be. The self-loathing Stefani feels dominates the single and makes it a real downer.

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