At a Gwen Stefani show, you are not a citizen of the world, but the subject of a commanding cultural empress whose red-lipped orders are your new desires. That is because Gwen Stefani publicly exists in and presents as her aesthetic a hugely successful, colorful and fun Gwen Nation. Not for Stefani is the unrestricted private life of her Top 40 counterparts she doesn't openly plot, sweat or suffer the way her peers do, nor does she criticize the competition. She tamed Gavin Rossdale and made a baby with him, both enormous personal challenges that went on without so much as a complaining, publicity-friendly cover story. Her high-profile venture into the flooded fashion market proved to be a viable business move. Her solo albums haven't just matched the success of No Doubt but lapped it. There's no question that Stefani is a serious creative force, one who seems endlessly inspired by her own trajectory from Orange County naif to the bleached Queen Bee of the music industry. This is not a woman whose music serves as a platform for merchandising. She's a pop star who also happens to be a musician. For the moment, at least, it's Gwen Stefani's world. We're just living in it.
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