After “Baby Don’t Lie,” the first single from Gwen Stefani’s long-awaited third solo album, flamed out, the No Doubt frontwoman is falling back on old tricks, teaming up with longtime collaborator Pharrell Williams for the follow-up, “Spark the Fire.” Not to put too fine a point on it, she half-raps, “OMG, OMG, I’m back again…Finally remembering what is me/That is what happens when I get with P[harrell],” and sings about “losing focus” during the bridge. Williams has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance the last couple of years, racking up accolades for Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and his own ubiquitous, Oscar-nominated “Happy.” And he was, of course, responsible for Stefani’s biggest single, 2004’s “Hollaback Girl,” among others. Unfortunately, “Spark the Fire,” which includes a nod to the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud,” seems more like an attempt to repeat those past hits than update the singer’s sound for “2015.” The track eschews Williams’s recent neo-disco shtick for the paint-can bongo beats, triangle, schoolyard chants that marked much of his earlier work. Still, “Spark the Fire,” not to be confused with No Doubt’s “Start the Fire,” has a better shot at reigniting Stefani’s solo career than its rather bland predecessor did. Now let’s just hope the music video is a step up too.
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