Song of the Day #5,255: ‘Cool’ – Gwen Stefani

After releasing five albums with her ska punk band No Doubt, Gwen Stefani started working on solo material. Her initial plan was to focus on collaborations and soundtrack songs, but she soon amassed enough material for a proper studio album.

No Doubt went on hiatus in 2003, freeing Stefani to complete Love. Angel. Music. Baby., a dance pop record that owed a lot more to Madonna than the ska sound of her band. Stefani co-wrote every song and partnered with a laundry list of big-name producers.

The result is a big, brash pop album that skips around genres and makes good use of both Stefani’s persona and her voice. At its best, the album feels like a throwback to great Cyndi Lauper and Madonna releases from decades earlier.

What hasn’t aged well is Stefani’s use of the “Harajuku Girls,” a quartet of Japanese baby doll dancers who accompanied her on tour and appeared in videos for the album. Stefani referred to them as her imaginary friends and treated the women, and their culture, as little more than props. She has defended the choice as a celebration, not appropriation, but either way it feels icky.

[Verse 1]
It’s hard to remember how it felt before
Now I’ve found the love of my life
Passes, things get more comfortable
Everything is going right

[Chorus 1]
And after all the obstacles
It’s good to see you now with someone else
And it’s such a miracle that you and me are still good friends
After all that we’ve been through
I know we’re cool
I know we’re cool

[Verse 2]
And we used to think it was impossible
Now you call me by my new last name
Memories seem like so long ago
Time always kills the pain

[Chorus 2]
Remember Harbor Boulevard?
The dreaming days where the mess was made
Look how all the kids have grown
We have changed, but we’re still the same
After all that we’ve been through
I know we’re cool
I know we’re cool
Yeah, I know we’re cool
See Gwen Stefani Live
Get tickets as low as $237

[Chorus 3]
And I’ll be happy for you
If you can be happy for me
Circles and triangles
And now we’re hangin’ out with your new girlfriend
So far from where we’ve been
I know we’re cool
I know we’re cool

C-cool, uh-uh, I know we’re cool, uh-uh
I-I know we’re cool
C-cool, yeah, I know we’re cool
Me and you

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,255: ‘Cool’ – Gwen Stefani

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m not familiar with the “Harajuku Girls,” but the criticism feels like yet another example of “woke-ism” gone amuck and a mischaracterization/ misidentification of cultural “appropriation.”

    • Clay says:

      Ron DeSantis, is that you? 😀

      • Dana Gallup says:

        LOL! No, but I do think that focus on these types of things is what loses the moderate vote for Democrats and gains votes for people like DeSantis.

        • Clay says:

          I agree with you, but that doesn’t make it any less icky.

          It might be politically smarter to ignore these things, but the message is basically “stop pointing out things you find offensive, you’re annoying the racists.”

          Because let’s face it, you and I might roll our eyes at some of the things singled out by woke culture, but it would never change our vote. Anybody who will vote Republican because of pronouns or Harajuku Girls has deeper issues.

          • Dana Gallup says:

            I don’t think any one minor perceived offense (to the extent it is even deemed offensive to the vast majority of the relevant population (in this case Japanese)) shifts votes, but a steady drip does erode support for liberals by moderate Dems and independents – often resulting in those folks simply not voting, which is arguably what happened in Florida.

            And much like the boy who cried wolf, the more attention is paid to these minor issues, the less focus and credibility is given to far more serious and systemic discrimination.

          • Clay says:

            People who dismiss the minor issues tend not to give credence to systemic discrimination either.

            And people who recognize, and hope to change, systemic discrimination are not going to be discouraged from that goal by somebody pointing out minor grievances.

            The reason there are so many of these minor offenses to drip drip drip is because we live in a society based on white supremacy and it has gone unchecked in the broader public sphere for centuries.

            Now that people finally feel emboldened to say “you know what, I find [X] offensive,” they’re being told to keep quiet.

            If Asians (or non-Asians) find it problematic for a white woman to drag a group of mute, costumed Japanese women behind her as props, why shouldn’t they express that? Others can disagree, of course, but that disagreement shouldn’t take the form of “you finding this offensive is a problem in itself.”

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I think the characterization of the Harajuku Girls as mute costumed props is way off base. They were BACKUP DANCERS!

    To be clear, I have no problem with members of the particular race, sex, religion or nationality expressing concern, and I think those concerns should be considered and evaluated, with deference paid by those not of the same race, sex, religion or nationality — and if that turns off moderates, Republicans or anybody else, so be it.

    However, what seems to be often the case is that those not of the same race, sex, religion or nationality take offense at something that the vast majority of the subject group are not offended by. Now, I have no idea if, in this case, many Japanese people were offended by Stefani’s use of the Harajuku Girls. As best I can tell, the only public figure who objected was Margaret Cho and she’s not even Japanese! Indeed, the suggestion made by a non-Asian white woman writer at Time magazine that Stefani must apologize for the Harajuku Girls era before fans embrace her new music underscores my point.

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