Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani speaks on “Harajuku Girls” cultural appropriation claims

Cultural appropriation claims are coming back to light as her solo debut album ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby.’ turns 15 this month.

November 21, 2019
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In the wake of the 15-year anniversary of her debut solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Gwen Stefani is addressing accusations of cultural appropriation as it relates to single “Harajuku Girls” and more. 

Stefani released her first solo effort in 2004 after previously releasing five studio albums as the frontwoman of No Doubt. Love. Angel. Music. Baby. was met with six total Grammy Award nominations as well as positive feedback from new and old fans alike.

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“Hollaback Girl” can still be heard on the radio and echoing through fans’ earbuds on the daily. You can watch the music video below for a little nostalgic boost through your veins.  

Another track on the album, “Harajuku Girls” went on to be a sort of theme for the remainder of the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. era. Stefani embarked on a North American tour titled the Harajuku Lovers tour. She was often accompanied by four Japanese backup dancers who were called Harajuku Girls during her shows and promotional events. 

Since then, people have accused the singer of cultural appropriation by using the Harajuku subculture as a marketing strategy. 

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Stefani recently sat down with Billboard to address the topic, her appreciation for the culture and to look back on Love. Angel. Music. Baby. before its 15th birthday. The vocalist revealed the story behind each track, and you can read her response in full on “Harajuku Girls” below. 

When it 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. This album was like a dream. I went in thinking I’m going to make something that could never be possible — me doing a dance record — come true. It was almost like a joke, because I thought that could never happen to me. So it was my fantasy. When the Harajuku Girls came out, it was like, you’re not even real, you’re a dream. It wasn’t like, “You’re not real because you’re Asian.” Are you kidding me? That would be horrifying!

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So when people asked me about it during radio interviews, I told them this was all a concept and we were having fun. By the way, the girls were cast to be dancers — that’s all. We went to Nobu in London and we talked about the concept of the record and I showed them my style bible. Judging by their own personalities, I called them “Love,” “Angel,” “Music” and “Baby.” It was like we were creating a group together.

I wanted to write a song that talked about my love for Harajuku. When you’re from Anaheim and never traveled outside of your city until you’re 21 years old, it was really crazy to go to Japan. My dad went there a lot because he worked with Yamaha motorcycles, so I had a fascination from a young age. When I got there and saw how fashion-obsessed they were, I thought they were my people, because my style was so unique. 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? You take pride in your culture and have traditions, and then you share them for new things to be created.

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More on Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

In honor of its 15th anniversary, Stefani’s solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is getting a remaster issue set to drop this Friday, Nov. 22. The singer will also rerelease two merch items from the original Love. Angel. Music. Baby. collection.  

The new edition of the well-loved album was remastered by Chris Gehringer, who has also worked with Drake, Lady Gaga and more. Stefani will perform an assortment of songs from Love. Angel. Music. Baby. on The Voice where she has been a coach on and off for several seasons. The episode will air Tuesday, Nov. 26 on NBC

Stefani can be found at her residence in Las Vegas at the Zappos theater starting in February or in South America in March. You can see a full list of dates below and check out the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. preorder packages here

North American dates: 

02/07 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/08 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/12 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/14 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/15 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/19 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/21 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
02/22 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/01 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/02 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/06 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/08 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/09 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/13 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/15 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater
05/16 – Las Vegas, NV @ Zappos Theater

South American dates:

03/27-29 – Santiago, CL @ Parque O’Higgins
03/27-29 – Buenos Aires, AR @ Hipódromo De San Isidro
04/03- 05 – Sao Paulo, BR @ Autodromo De Interlagos

See more: 30 albums turning 10 in 2019

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Written by Mackenzie Templeton