Pop Factor: 709 Controversy Factor: 255

Trying to be Madonna is a noble and not uncommon aim for our pop stars. Britney tries, Christina tries – you could probably make a case for Robbie trying, and let’s not even consider the efforts of Geri. Now here’s Gwen having a go, with two big points in her favour. For one thing she seems to be modeling herself on Madonna’s supremely entertaining bonkers diva early-90s phase (Erotica, Dick Tracey, Blonde Ambition etc.), for another she’s written the best Madonna single of the last 15 years. “What You Waiting For” is brutally direct, entirely modern and sleekly catchy but it’s also bursting with daffy personality. Gwen gives herself some harsh advice, goes all squeaky and twee on us, spoons over some cool Japanese girls and ends up shouting the year’s most striking hookline. Mildly baffling but entirely terrific. 9 (Tom)

Sometimes all that matters is the result, not how the game was won. But whatever game Gwen is playing here I think she’s playing it brilliantly because this track pushes my buttons the way it’s intended to. Cute and/or annoying (I’ve never had a problem with Stefani or her style tho and still think ‘Just A Girl’ is great), brash and/or deft, the track chugs and thunders along with a satisfactory thud akin to the production of Germany’s Tomcraft – particularly his remix of Kola’s ‘Into The Light’. So, for me any criticism of bandwagon-jumping is irrelevant here, because this is perfect pretentious power-pop done proper, and I think it’s got more oomph than any Pink or Girls Aloud single. Quirky lyrics aside I love the way the track plays out at the end, the background playground chanting still in effect, maintained, not ready to give up despite the tone of resignation – like a machine reluctantly winding down after a particularly enjoyable and satisfying workout. 10 (Steve M)

ILM seems to hate it. I can’t imagine why. Well, that’s not quite true: the self-pitying lyrics, the clipped vocals, the disinterested tone, the incongrous introduction – those things, perhaps, are detestable. But I will grip tenaciously to poor taste if I so desire, and rarely is it so alluring as with this. The beat, the “tick-tock,” the glorious forcefulness with which that first verse is delivered – oh, so many hooks! That bit about “your million-dollar contract” is an eye-roller, but it’s all in such good fun that I’m never moved to think of dismissing the song. Absolutely wonderful. But I’m bracing myself for the follow-up. 10 (Atnevon)

Super Milk Chan sideswipes PuffyAmiYumi in her new Hello Kitty hummer, spilling the duo’s ginkgo biloba smoothies; hilarious hijinks ensue. Snide bastards are bound to say this stupid ho’s finally taking a chance, and succeeding. However, while I am snide and quite the bastard, let me set things straight – Gwen’s not so stupid, I’m hoping (for Gavin’s sake) she’s not a ho, and it’s clear that the risks she’s taken since “Don’t Speak” raked in all those pre-Titanic pathos dollars have grown exponentially in direct proportion to the amount of success she’s had. I can’t imagine where she could go next to push her envelope, though, unless she’s able to actualize an idealized version of the futurepopshock that Luc Besson gamely attempted in The Fifth Element with the blue-skinned cosmic opera diva Plava Laguna. Don’t fight this good shit in your ear, folks. 10 (David Raposa)

Gwen as usual sings like she’s in a shampoo advert, with exagerated body and bounce, but yoked to a disco track- strident, dictating that you dance- the result is suddenly spectacular. Her vocal swoops and swerves suddenly have a purpose. The music’s an exhilirating bounce between countless bright plasticy layers- like Van Halen or Rush, sounds just keep appearing for no reason, as if they’re sitting coked-up behind the console for hours- “yeah one more layer!”.

Gwen’s always been a bit Madonna lite, an infinitely demanding material girl, but this is the only track so far that measures up to her ego. Of course that’s much much better than Madonna has been for years. 7 (Derek Walmsley)

I’ve found myself singing “Take a chance you stupid ho” on quite a few occasions, it’s a bit embarassing really. I like this song, it’s quirky. I bought the album, it’s fairly awful, and now I wish I hadn’t. I’m also thinking I like this song mainly as background to the really good video. Oh well! 7 (Jel)

Tick Tock, Tick Tock – forcing me down the road faster and faster to catch that bus. Tick Tock, Tick Tock – I really should’ve got my thoughts clear on this song. Running out of time.

At one point I had it all sorted, many moons ago. But it’s sucked me in now. The sense of urgency is compelling. The chorus drilling directly & efficiently at all my weak spots. This isn’t because of cheap production techniques. It’s that thing Gwen does with her voice that sounds like an off-kilter warble. Certain lines still seem a bit ill-thought. All this talk of stupid ho’s is not really what Id expect from her. It’s a bit lowest common denominator.

Oh, but at least it’s all electronic & orgasmic sounding. Rather baffling is that it sounds a bit flat on the radio which doesn’t seem right – perhaps they’ve removed all the good bits and turned up the guitar line in order to make it more palatable. The song makes no sense to me but I remain certain of one thing – Gwen is much better off without No Doubt. 7 (MW_Jimmy)

I remember that day when my cousin bought flowers for my sister while I was playing the Ladytron CD very loud. We stuck our tongues out at each other and sat there waiting for LCD Soundsystem to come on stage while some teenager standing next to us was babbling on the phone about Dance Dance Revolution. Tick tock tick tock tick tock, seconds alternating between the awkward and the ultra-hip. Thank you for the memories, Gwen. 7 (Michael F Gill)

Gwen Stefani prefers the Hello Kitty version of Japan, not going for the real To-oh-kee-you. I can see her walking through Harajuku gawking at the Superlovers store. As much as I like Japan, I prefer to peel away the veneer and realize that underneath it’s not that cute. Just watch Audition and avoid the painful lesson. But I digress. As much as I like Gwen Stefani’s nu kawai persona – a pouty Madonna/Jean Harlow wannabe dressed up in geisha attire – she’s just fallen off the dangling cord she calls her career. “What You Waiting For” begs for approval, but sounds like a mixed affair. It’s just all style and no substance. She tries to go for the meta approach but misses two important ingredients, namely her own persona and voice. What use is there if you sing about yourself but have forgotten to establish your own image? A well-produced track – you can hear the dollars bouncing off the beats – it just misses good lyrics and focus. She needs to give me the URL to that Post Modern Poem Generator because it has some wicked style. So do I like the song? I guess not. I need to find a climax here. Let’s see… She just drew her unLucky Number. Her Time’s Running Out. You should’ve taken a chance, you (*cough*) stupid ho. You Got Your Milion Dollar Contract, oops there it goes flying out the door! Blablabla. So many cliche putdowns and all it boils down to: the single’s absolute trite. 4 (Stevie Nixied)

I have never liked No Doubt nor any of her solo stuff, and this hasn’t changed my views at all. I find her voice unattractively nasal, with nothing that compensates for this. She strikes me as sounding like a poor version of Cyndi Lauper, without Cyndi’s extraordinary force or vitality. This record fiddles around with different moods, starting like a power ballad then into bouncy pop then driving rock, even shoving in a strange touch of what could be a mandolin after a while, but none of these things convince or go anywhere interesting. The chorus is adequate, but there’s nothing here that appeals to me at all, and nothing that much bothers me either. I don’t care. 4 (Martin Skidmore)

This one has all the properties of a great pop single (disposable, synthetic, juvenile), but the problem, really, is Gwen Stefani. We know her. Well. Too well. This type of song only works when delivered by some anonymous Girls Aloud animatron (that way, us musical-discourse types can rave about the production). Plus. those cooing, orgasmic vocals and the cutesy way she sings “tick tock tick tock” have to rate as some of the year’s more grating sounds. That horrible duet she did with Eve a few years back doesn’t seem so bad now. 3 (Henry Scollard)