Back with their fifth studio album, Rock Steady, No Doubt dig up their reggae roots for a sound that is sure to make you want to dance. More upbeat and happier than its predecessor, Return of Saturn, this disc is an eclectic mix of songs inspired by the Jamaican dancehall music the band partied to backstage after shows on the Return of Saturn tour. Described by lead singer Gwen Stefani as “a sparkling, happy, positive, party record“, this album not only fuses their trademark sound with a strong dancehall vibe, but has some hip-hop influence to it as well.
Working with a slew of producers ranging from former Cars front man Rick Ocasek to reggae duo Sly & Robbie, the result finds the foursome exploring these reggae-dancehall and new wave tendencies in greater depth than ever before. The album also includes production work from Nellee Hooper, William Orbit, Steely & Clevie, and the Neptunes. A far cry from the bands self titled debut, Rock Steady is a burst of enthusiasm with a happy upbeat vibe that will make you want to sing and dance along to its infectious rhythm. One thing that hasn't changed is the very personal lyrical expression of singer Gwen Stefani that almost anyone can relate to.
The stand out tracks on the album are “Hey Baby“, “Underneath it All“, and “Don't Let Me Down“. “Hey Baby” is a poppy confection of dancehall and new wave beats about the band's experiences partying backstage while on tour. “Underneath it All” is a song with a strong reggae influence featuring Jamaican singer Lady Saw. Last but not least, “Don't Let Me Down” a very new wave sounding sure-to-be hit produced by Rick Ocasek.
Having met their goal of writing and recording this album in less than a year, No Doubt released Rock Steady on December 11th, 2001. This is an incredibly quick follow up for a band with a reputation for taking years to make an album, as with their 1995 breakthrough Tragic Kingdom, and its 2000 follow up Return of Saturn.
Overall, Rock Steady is sure to please the palate of the open-minded music guru, but for you hard headed ska fans, I suggest you stick with the bands old school style.