Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Gwen Stefani – Let Me Reintroduce Myself

Nice* to meet you [*citation needed]


Thomas Inskeep: Not even a “please”? How rude.

Jeffrey Brister: You know how nostalgia, in its most meaningless and insubstantial form, simply shouts, “hey, remember this?” at you constantly, with enough force to keep your focus away from the emptiness within? Well, what if that concept were a song, and also a mid-life crisis, and the video was a stew of symbols without referents, and the whole thing just irritated you because you have to refrain from referencing Mark Fisher because it’s trite to trot out the whole Hauntology thing? The conceit of “reintroducing” oneself, an artist with a storied history in pop music, via a song that evokes absolutely nothing temporally specific (though that guitar riff at the start sounds like Sugar Ray) is absolutely fascinating to me, but not for the reasons Stefani intended.

Aaron Bergstrom: Nothing says “still culturally relevant” like dressing up in your old clothes, awkwardly referencing your biggest solo hit (which will be old enough to drive in a few months), and literally singing the words “I’m recycling me,” all in the first verse.

Rodrigo Pasta: “It’s not a comeback, I’m recycling me” does not mean what she thinks it means. A meta-announcement that’s also meant to act as the real thing, and it ends up being neither. It’s not self-aware enough to be cynical, yet not stupid enough to pity it. It’s a superstar promoting herself as her brand instead of her music. Every time you think she’s gonna say something (anything!), it’s either a callback to the fact that she exists, or nonsense (“Ooh! 20-20-20-20-20 vision/That’s 100, but I’m not that good at long division” stands tall among the worst lines of 2020). It can’t even properly be musically retro since its “dancehall”/”ska” instrumental is the most sterile revival since Jonas Brothers’ “Only Human” — and it might be the worst song released since “Only Human”.

Leah Isobel: This is like a more crassly commercial version of “Red Sangria.”

Alfred Soto: Within seconds I knew “Let Me Reintroduce Myself” would become this year’s “Ironic”: critics and some listeners having a laugh at the expense of the female singer who doesn’t know what “recycle” means. But recycling is her approach: borrowing ska guitar here and Dua Lipa vocal moos there into a combustible mixture. If she didn’t sound so pipsqueaky, she might’ve made something better than compost.

Andrew Karpan: For most of Stefani’s three-minute meta-exercise on her own fame, Stefani evidences little remorse, reducing the cleverness of her pop cannon into reference points like so many nouns in a Billy Joel song. But amid all these hyperlinks, the ex-punk singer declares with a snarl that “no, I’m not records on your shelf.” Inside such moments of alienated labor levity, I can imagine that there’s hope yet for a Marxist pop star for these times.

Scott Mildenhall: What is “self”, beyond its rhyme with “shelf”? This song doesn’t seem to have an answer, but poses many such questions. The existentialism feels entirely unwitting, provoked by a protestation of selfhood that seems designed only to reassert Gwen Stefani The Popstar. After all the artifice, it’s thuddingly incurious. But it does have a nice beat.

Katherine St Asaph: Gwen Stefani’s whole career has been one continuous reintroduction of herself, as outlined in this retrospective, a gallery of horrifying re-introductions past (which is worse: some suit’s description of the “high degree of notoriety and equity in her brand,” or her father’s description of her sex appeal — end sentence, really — as “the healthy, athletic, happy, honest approach”?) She wanted to be the girl who had and ate the most cake: the iconoclast in debutante pearls, the wild rocker mild enough for a CosmoGIRL fashion page-filler, forever more wholesome than the surroundings she’d gotten into. How well it worked depended on how young and/or uncynical you were, as with the era’s other queen of ever-protesting branding, Jennifer Lopez — which is perhaps why “Let Me Reintroduce Myself” sounds like a GOOP version of “Jenny from the Block,” and about as convincing. For all her image work, Stefani’s sound was always malleable, from ska once upon a discography to the sproingy rock “Just a Girl” to the ’90s angst of “Don’t Speak” to the steely electro of “Hella Good” and the Linda Perry songs on Love. Angel. Music. Baby., to the garish experiments of the rest of that album and the next. She thrives or craters with her collaborators, but here that’s Ross Golan, responsible for some of the blandest Adult Hits records of the past decade. He recycles Andy Grammer and Maroon 5 as much as anything Stefani did. What survives of her are the wrong-side-of-WTF lyrics: the recycling line, the long-division line (I was joking about that algorithm thing), or the references to “records on a shelf,” which in streaming days exist as vintage kitsch as much as music, or being “free with a coupon,” like shows by artists who can’t get their arenas to sell out.

Will Adams: Like the other “I’m humble!” songs from Stefani’s contemporaries, “Let Me…” is so lacking in self-awareness it’s comedic. It’s a vanity single with misguided ambition; what, exactly, are we being reintroduced to? Stefani’s spent the last five years becoming a primetime and tabloid fixture along with an equally self-unaware partner. The angle, it seems, is to remind the public that she’s someone who unabashedly appropriated every culture under the sun for fast-fashion branding and giddily asks for more money for her video shoot as masked stylists finish their touch-ups. She’s not wrong to use “recycled”; the song itself is fine and unsurprising, a chipper morass of reggae whatever. So perhaps the real question to ask is: does this need to exist?

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One Response to “Gwen Stefani – Let Me Reintroduce Myself”

  1. the streak is broken http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=20328#comment-1327542