RATING: *** (out of four)
In her debut solo video from last year, Gwen Stefani can't concentrate on writing those brilliant, brilliant pop songs of hers because she's preoccupied with her deadbeat boyfriend. So she answers an ad ("Writer's Block?") posted on a bulletin board in the hallway of her recording studio.
After watching an informative video and signing a waiver in an office building, Gwen wakes back up in her recording studio to find a mysterious Flavor Flav alarm clock necklace on her piano and a miniature, computer-animated Japanese clay bunny running at her face.
After that, all bets are off - it appears Gwen has been issued a heroic dose of psyillocybin mushrooms, and she spends the duration of the video in another world. Gwen sings to a clone of herself - both of them clad in off-white top hats, enormous high heels and way too ruffly skirts. She finds a giant version of herself stuck in a house, with arms and legs popping out of windows on the top and bottom floors.
She crawls into an equally cramped greenhouse while Japanese geisha girls writhe from atop umbrellas in the water. She hangs out with pink flamingoes. She crashes a tea party. She gets opium smoke blown in her face by an old Japanese guy smoking from a houka. And, the kicker, Gwen runs through a garden maze whose green shrubbery oozes and drips with the exact living-watercolor imagery of a solid mushroom trip. Not that I'd know what that's like, Bush administration Justice Department officials. You don't have to tap my phone or put a camera in my bathroom.
Meanwhile, we see the real Gwen lying back in a wooden chair in her studio, defying gravity, while the song writes and records itself on a ProTools computer rig and the song's lyrics appear in calligraphy, in her notebook, as they're being sung. If you guessed the lyrics are actually about
the fact that Gwen is under pressure to come up with a hit song for her big solo debut and define her identity apart from her band, then wow, you're as clever as Gwen. She could use your lyric-writing help, maybe. Or your drugs. Whatever drugs you could give her.
It's all pretty derivative - I mean, for a song that's about conquering writer's block and unoriginality, "What You Waiting For?" borrows a hell of a lot of ideas and images. There's one part Alice in Wonderland
, one part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
, one part Bjork (the "lyrics writing themselves in the notebook" motif is almost identical to her "Bachelorette" video), and I can't put my finger on it, but I know I've seen the "giant person trapped in the house" thing in at least one other music video.
Still, I've got a massive soft spot for videos that go all out with psychedelic effects, and director Francis Lawrence at least puts a halfway novel spin on it by indulging Gwen's sizeable hardon for the Japanese. The entire bridge of "What You Waiting For?", which doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the song, is devoted to Japanese people and cities. Apparently, Gwen Stefani can't wait to get back to Osaka, and the Harajuku girls have some damn wicked style. Oh, and she wants your drugs. Give her your drugs, for the love of God.