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Harajuku Girls (song)

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"Harajuku Girls"
Song by Gwen Stefani
from the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
ReleasedNovember 12, 2004
Recorded2004
StudioStankonia Recording
(Atlanta, Georgia)
Larabee Sound Studio East
(Los Angeles, California)
Sound Castle Studios
(Los Angeles, California)
Genre
Length4:51
LabelInterscope
Songwriter(s)
  • Gwen Stefani
  • James Harris III
  • Terry Lewis
  • James Quenton Wright
  • Bobby Ross Avila
  • Issiah J. Avila
Producer(s)
  • Jimmy Jam
  • Terry Lewis

Listen to the song Harajuku Girls (song) or Buy it on amazon

"Harajuku Girls" is a song recorded by American singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani from her debut solo studio album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (2004). It was released on November 12, 2004, along with the rest of the parent album by Interscope Records. The track was written by Stefani, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, James Quenton Wright, Bobby Ross Avila, and Issiah J. Avila, while production was handled by Jimmy Jam, Lewis and Mark "Spike" Stent. Musically, the song is a synthpop-inspired track, influenced by hip hop music. Its lyrics serve as an ode to the Harajuku, a district in Shibuya, Japan, and the Harajuku Girls, a group of backdancers that originally performed with Stefani on multiple occasions.

Upon release, "Harajuku Girls" was widely panned by critics for its lyrical content, with many critics finding the track racist. However, several reviewers were more positive to the track for being interesting. It received renewed attention and criticism during the 2010s, when critics provided contemporary reviews of Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and Stefani's career. Stefani performed "Harajuku Girls" during the Harajuku Lovers Tour in 2005, where it served as the opening number. She wore a tiara and baby clothing, replicating a scene similar to the cover of the parent album. It was also sung live during her concert tour, This Is What the Truth Feels Like Tour, in 2016.

Background and composition[edit]

As described by J. Freedom du Lac of The Washington Post, "Harajuku Girls" is "a slinky synth-pop tribute to the wild sartorial sensibilities of Tokyo street culture".[1] Stefani was inspired to write the track as she has an "obsession with [...] Japanese Harajuku culture".[2] It serves as a "tech-infused tribute to Japanese fashion" and as an "ode to couture" for John Galliano, one of the singer's sources of inspiration for fashion, Hysteric Glamour, and A Bathing Ape.[3] The dance troupe of the same name also are a source of inspiration with the track; Stefani uses it to pay homage to the people who "help inspire and dress her".[4] According to Jason Damas of PopMatters, "Harajuku Girls", in addition to "Bubble Pop Electric" and "Luxurious", shows off Stefani's "hip-hop mode",[5] which in turn "yields a synthetic sheen that works well".[6] The A.V. Club's Andy Battaglia referred to the style: "'Harajuku Girls' sounds like demure would-be Japanese style".[7]

The song was written by Stefani, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, James Quenton Wright, Bobby Ross Avila, and Issiah J. Avila, with production handled by Jimmy Jam, Lewis, and Mark "Spike" Stent.[8] During the song's bridge, Stefani refers to Japanese culture as "A ping-pong match between Eastern and Western",[9] while simultaneously name-dropping fashion icons: "What's that you got on? / Is it Comme des Garçons? / Vivienne Westwood can't go wrong / Mixed up with second hand clothes".[3] The former lyrics were scrutinized by several publications, with a critic from Time calling the singer "racist".[10]

She also appreciates Japanese fashion through several lyrics: "Where the catwalk got it claws / All you fashion know-it-alls / With your underground malls..." and "When you dress up in your clothes / Wild hair color and cell phones / Your accessories are dead-on".[5] A "Japanese-styled flute riff" was created for the track, and is played alongside a "danceable beat"; several Japanese phrases are spoken in the recording, sung by the Harajuku Girls themselves. Stefani asks the ladies various questions, to which they reply and answer them.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Initial reception[edit]

"Harajuku Girls" was heavily panned by contemporary music critics. Damas from PopMatters noted the song for being a "bizarrely homoerotic tribute to Japanese pop culture". He also stated that the collaboration with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who handled the track's production, "set expectations a bit high", referring to their previous work with Janet Jackson, confirming that it "sounds nothing like Rhythm Nation".[5] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic agreed with Damas' claim of "homoerotic[ness]", and stated: "Stefani's dogged desire to cobble together her own patchwork style while adhering to both her new wave chick and urban goddess personas can be both fascinatingly odd and irresistible."[11] In his review of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., David Browne from Entertainment Weekly called it "a teeth-gnashingly cutesy tribute" and criticized Stefani for promoting her fashion line L.A.M.B. throughout the track. Browne further found "the ostentatiousness of it all [...] irritating".[12] Regarding the song's themes of Japanese fashion and culture, Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani found it "maniacal" for the singer "suggest[ing] she'd like to 'get' four of the girls and name them Love, Angel, Music, and Baby"; he described the action as "rife with subversive social commentary".[13]

In a generally positive review, Winnie McCroy from The Villager enjoyed the song and the Harajuku Girls' contribution, and thanked them for "add[ing] some international flavor to an already stellar track".[3] A critic from Sputnikmusic awarded "Harajuku Girls" four out of five stars, declaring it "one of the more interesting songs of the year", in addition to complimenting its "interesting, danc[e]able beat" and "rather brilliant" production.[2] As part of Renowned for Sound's "Record Rewind" column, Marcus Floyd also appreciated the track for "how fantastically poppy it is".[14]

Contemporary reception[edit]

Additional discussion of "Harajuku Girls", the dancers, and claims of Stefani's cultural appropriation occurred in the 2010s. Adam Wallis from Global News observed that Stefani's so-called "bow-down" to Asian culture "has raised eyebrows across the globe, with many accusing her of cultural appropriation".[15] This observation was echoed by Christopher Luu from InStyle.[16] Eliana Dockterman from Time found the song's lyrics to be subpar, writing that they "aren't much better" than Stefani's usage of the dancers as "basically puppets" in the song's live performances.[9] Following the announcement of Stefani's animated series Kuu Kuu Harajuku (2015), the staff at Rolling Stone remarked that Stefani's first usage of the Harajuku Girls dancers was on "Harajuku Girls", prior to its inclusion on the show and the 2016 song of the same name.[17] When Love. Angel. Music. Baby. was reissued in 2019 for its fifteenth anniversary, Mackenzie Templeton from Alternative Press referred to "Harajuku Girls" as the "theme for the remainder of the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. era" and noted how the use of the song and dancers were largely criticized by the public and considered blatant cultural appropriation.[18]

Regarding the backlash she received from the dancers and "Harajuku Girls", Stefani responded: "I get a little defensive when people [call it culture appropriation], because if we didn't allow each other to share our cultures, what would we be?"[19] She reflected that "when ["Harajuku Girls"] first came out, I think people understood that it was an artistic and literal bow down to a culture that I was a superfan of"; Stefani also stated she was "horrif[ied]" that critics had claimed she referred to her dancers as "not real people".[19] After explaining that the song was written in admiration of Japanese and Harajuku culture, she continued: "You take pride in your culture and have traditions, and then you share them for new things to be created."[20]

Live performances[edit]

Stefani performing "Harajuku Girls" during the This Is What the Truth Feels Like Tour in 2016.

The singer included the song on the setlist for her 2005 concert tour entitled Harajuku Lovers Tour.[21] For the performance, she appeared on stage wearing a tiara and baby doll outfit,[22] sitting in a red velvet and gold colored throne, as seen on the cover of Love. Angel. Music. Baby..[22][23] Video images of the dancers simultaneously appeared on screens broadcast behind them.[24] Feedback for the performance was generally mixed, with Dockterman panning it and accusing Stefani of using the women as puppets, referring to a report where the ladies were "contractually obligated to only speak Japanese in public".[9] Referring to the outfits worn by the Harajuku Girls during the tour, comedian Margaret Cho issued the following statement:

Even though to me, a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface, I am just in acceptance over it, because something is better than nothing. An ugly picture is better than a blank space, and it means that one day, we will have another display at the Museum of Asian Invisibility, that groups of children will crowd around in disbelief, because once upon a time, we weren’t there.[25]

However, Hazel Cills from Vice defended the singer's motives, stating: "Although no musicians had the gail to hire actual Japanese women as props, Asian fetishism and appropriation was rampant in 80s rock", while referring to Stefani's major influence for the parent album's entirety.[26] The live rendition at the aforementioned tour was used as the opening track on Stefani's debut video album, Harajuku Lovers Live.[27] At the promotional concert series MasterCard Priceless Surprises Presents Gwen Stefani, the song was performed as a part of a "Harajuku Medley", consisting of songs "Yummy", "Don't Get It Twisted", "Now That You Got It", and "Bubble Pop Electric". The medley contained J-pop and disco elements, and served as a "virtual sonic tour of Stefani's many stylistic identities".[28] Stefani performed "Harajuku Girls" during the 2016 This Is What the Truth Feels Like Tour in support of her third studio album This Is What the Truth Feels Like (2016), Stefani performed "Harajuku Girls".[29] Stefani sung the track during Act 2, immediately following "Luxurious", and wore jeans lined with multiple zippers and a sparkly, sleeveless top.[30] Her wardrobe for the tour was designed by The Blonds, in addition to Mariel Haenn and Rob Zangardi serving as the singer's stylists.[31]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Management

  • Recorded at Stankonia Recording, Atlanta; Larabee Sound Studio East, Los Angeles; and Soundcastle Studios, Los Angeles.

Personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Love. Angel. Music. Baby.[32]

See also[edit]

  • Harajuku Girls – the dance group that inspired the song of the same name

References[edit]

  1. du Lac, J. Freedom (November 7, 2005). "Gwen Stefani's Patriot Center Fashion Show". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2015. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ryou–Neko (November 14, 2005). "Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 McCroy, Winnie (January 5–11, 2005). "A sound that pops, and more". The Villager. 74 (35). Archived from the original on June 23, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2007. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. Haines, Lisa (November 29, 2004). "Review of Gwen Stefani – Love Angel Music Baby". BBC Music. Archived from the original on November 6, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Damas, Jason (November 28, 2004). "Gwen Stefani – Love.Angel.Music.Baby". PopMatters. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Sullivan, Caroline (November 18, 2004). "Gwen Stefani, Love Angel Music Baby". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. Battaglia, Andy (December 13, 2004). "Gwen Stefani: Love. Angel. Music. Baby.". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  8. "Harajuku Girls (Legal Title)". BMI. Retrieved October 26, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Dockterman, Eliana (October 20, 2014). "Before We Embrace Gwen Stefani's Comeback, She Owes Us An Apology". Time. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. Feeney, Nolan (December 8, 2014). "Gwen Stefani: I Don't Regret the Harajuku Girls At All". Time. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Gwen Stefani – Love.Angel.Music.Baby.". AllMusic. Archived from the original on February 14, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  12. Browne, David (November 29, 2004). "Gwen Stefani: Love. Angel. Music. Baby". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on November 7, 2015. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  13. Cinquemani, Sal (November 20, 2004). "Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby.". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  14. Floyd, Marcus (December 21, 2014). "Record Rewind: Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby". Renowned for Sound. Archived from the original on September 23, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  15. Wallis, Adam (November 20, 2019). "Gwen Stefani defends 'Harajuku Girls' era, denies cultural appropriation". Global News. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  16. Luu, Christopher (November 19, 2019). "Gwen Stefani Says Her Harajuku Girls Phase Wasn't Cultural Appropriation". InStyle. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  17. "Watch Gwen Stefani Rap in Harajuku-Inspired Nickelodeon Series". Rolling Stone. September 26, 2016. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  18. Templeton, Mackenzie (November 21, 2019). "Gwen Stefani Speaks on 'Harajuku Girls' Cultural Appropriation Claims". Alternative Press. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Gracie, Bianca (November 19, 2019). "Gwen Stefani's 'Love. Angel. Music. Baby.' Turns 15: A Track–By–Track Retrospective With the Pop Superstar". Billboard. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  20. Barnes, Hannah (November 20, 2019). "Gwen Stefani Addresses 'Harajuku Girls' Era Against Cries of Cultural Appropriation". PopCulture. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  21. Stevenson, Jane (December 10, 2005). "Air Canada Centre, Toronto – December 9, 2005". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Williams, Rob (November 16, 2005). "Clothes minded singer offers more style than substance". Winnipeg Sun. Sun Media. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2011. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  23. Moss, Corey (October 24, 2005). "Gwen Stefani Brings Solo Show To Hollywood 'Hometown' Crowd". MTV (Viacom). Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2011. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  24. Pareles, Jon (November 3, 2005). "A Fashionista Singing About (What Else?) Style". The New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  25. Cho, Margaret (October 31, 2005). "Harajuku Girls". Margaret Cho. Archived from the original on December 10, 2016. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  26. Cills, Hazel (November 29, 2014). "Looking Back at Gwen Stefani's Racist Pop Frankenstein Ten Years Later". Vice. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  27. "Harajuku Lovers Live". AllMusic. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  28. Hampp, Andrew (February 8, 2015). "Gwen Stefani Plays First Solo Show in Six Years at L.A.'s Orpheum Theatre". Billboard. Archived from the original on April 2, 2016. Retrieved April 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  29. Stevenson, Jane (August 2, 2016). "Gwen Stefani talks This Is What the Truth Feels Like tour". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  30. Janes, Théoden (July 24, 2016). "Concert review: Gwen Stefani pulls fast one on security". The Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on August 5, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  31. Karsen, Shira (July 19, 2016). "Gwen Stefani's Tour Couture: The Blonds Talk About Her 'This Is What the Truth Feels Like' Fashion". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 22, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  32. Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (CD liner notes). Gwen Stefani. Interscope Records. 2004. B0003469-02.

External links[edit]


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