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Settle Down Edit

It took No Doubt a solid decade to finish their comeback album, "Push and Shove," and that prolonged effort immediately shows on the disc's first single, "Settle Down." The aggro-pop quartet crams as many hooks as possible into its long-awaited new song, which finds Gwen Stefani adjusting to unfamiliar circumstances but declaring that she'll be fine; after all, she is "a rough and tough." Sonically, the band balances reggae flourishes with Tony Kanal's kinetic bass movements, creating a forceful continuation of their "Rock Steady" singles. The difference between "Settle Down" and No Doubt hits like "Hey Baby" and "Hella Good" is how hard the group has to work on their new cut: melodies are snipped while others are shoehorned into place, and Stefani's lyrical conversation with herself sounds more exhaustively constructed than effortless. "It's kind of complicated, that's for sure," the pop star confides before the chorus hits; it's a line that undoubtedly describes No Doubt's road to "Push and Shove," as well as the makeup of its first single.
The beat is Caribbean, with hints of Seventies funk and Eighties electro percolating up through the mix. There are burly rock power chords. The chorus is a big, delicious bubblegum flavor burst. In other words: The first new No Doubt song in nearly a decade sounds an awful lot like No Doubt a decade ago. What's surprising about "Settle Down," however, is how well the sound has held up: Strip some of the production gloss off "Settle Down," and it could be a Santigold record. But No Doubt are unapologetically themselves: still a lovably ditzy SoCal party band, right down to Gwen Stefani's surfer-chick beatitudes: "I'm hella positive for real. . . . Nothing's gonna knock this girl down."

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