Gwen Stefani hasn’t released a solo album since 2006’s The Sweet Escape, the underwhelming follow-up to her polarizing 2004 solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. 2012’s No Doubt reunion album, Push and Shove, was the first new material she’d released in six years. But despite her sporadic absences from the studio, she’s obviously kept an ear close to the ground (she’s currently a judge on The Voice), which the just-released “Baby Don’t Lie,” from her forthcoming third solo album, makes very clear. (Update, Oct. 21, 2014: Here's the music video.)
Co-written and produced by two of the music industry’s most consistent hit makers, Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco, the song is as of-the-moment as anything Stefani has done. It’s also one where she sounds the least like herself. The song’s first few bass and handclap-heavy seconds recall the kind of “Hollaback Girl” energy that dominated the radio nearly a decade ago, but that intro’s a fake-out; it doesn’t reappear until the bridge. When “Baby Don’t Lie” really begins nine seconds in, it becomes a soaring, mid-tempo pop ballad about needing a “love that’s stronger.”
And it sounds unmistakably Rihanna-influenced—the 2012 hit “Diamonds” and 2009’s “Te Amo” come to mind especially. Stefani’s vocal inflections even seem to mimic Rihanna’s (perhaps, “Baby Don’t Lie” was originally intended for the Bajan singer?). In any case, the song’s likely to put Stefani back on the charts. Her new album is reportedly set for December.