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"Hollaback Girl"
Single by Gwen Stefani
from the album Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Released March 15, 2005 (2005-03-15)
Format Digital download (U.S.), CD single (worldwide)
Recorded New York City, New York, United States
Genre Pop
Hip hop
Length 3:20
Label Interscope
Writer(s) Gwen Stefani, Chad Hugo, Pharrell Williams
Producer The Neptunes
Certification Platinum (RIAA)[1]
Platinum (ARIA)
Gwen Stefani singles chronology
"Rich Girl"
"Hollaback Girl"

"Hollaback Girl" is a song written by singer Gwen Stefani and Pharrell for Stefani's debut solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. As part of Stefani's vision of creating "a silly dance record",[2] the song is influenced by 1980s dance and pop music. They wrote the song as a response to Courtney Love's statement that Stefani was a "cheerleader" in an interview with Seventeen magazine.

The song was released as the album's third single in early 2005 (see 2005 in music) and was one of the year's most popular songs, peaking inside the top ten on the majority of the charts it entered. It reached number one in Australia and the United States, where it became the first digital download to sell one million copies. "Hollaback Girl" received many award nominations, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year at the 48th Grammy Awards, yet it divided pop music critics. The CD single has a "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" label, while the album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., does not.

The song was listed at #180 on Pitchfork Media's top 500 songs of the 2000s. Hollaback Girl is 41st most popular song of the decade according to Billboard Magazine.[3]


Writing and inspiration

Stefani had worked with The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) during the early stages of writing Love. Angel. Music. Baby.; however, a case of writer's block resulted in reportedly uninspired collaborations.[4] As the album neared completion, Stefani regained her confidence and booked another session with The Neptunes. Stefani flew to New York City to meet up with Williams, and after finishing two songs within a week, Stefani ended the session early and prepared to return home. A few minutes later, Williams called her back into the studio to write another song. Stefani said, "I was tired. I wanted to go home, but he was like, 'Don't leave yet."'[5]

When she returned to the studio, Williams began to play Stefani his first solo album, and she became envious.[4] Excited by his material, she decided to write another song with Williams, despite her opinion that the album already contained far too many tracks.[5]

To search for inspiration, Stefani and Williams had a lengthy discussion in which Stefani said that she had yet to write a song about her intentions for pursuing a solo career. She remarked how the album was missing an "attitude song", and she recalled a derogatory comment that grunge musician Courtney Love had made about her in an interview with teen magazine Seventeen.

Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker shed.[6][7]

Stefani responded in the March 2005 issue of NME:

Y'know someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively, and I've never been a cheerleader. So I was, like, "OK, fuck you. You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I'll rule the whole world, just you watch me."[7]

Stefani believed that some of the fans of No Doubt would be upset with her solo effort, commenting, "[They] were probably like, 'Why is she doing this record? She's going to ruin everything'."[4] She revealed that she too did not know why she was recording a solo album. For the remainder of the evening, Stefani and Williams incorporated this inspiration into the lyrics that eventually became "Hollaback Girl". The two decided that Stefani did not have to have an answer for her intentions and that the choices she made were based on what she felt was wrong or right.[4] On its creation, Stefani said, "to me, it is the freshest attitude song I've heard in so long." Williams was pleased with the song, commenting, "Gwen is like the girl in high school who just had her own style."[5]

Because Stefani never disclosed the song title's meaning, reviewers came up with various interpretations. In a satirical, line-by-line analysis of the song's lyrics, OC Weekly critic Greg Stacy humorously speculated that "Gwen is apparently the captain of the cheerleader squad; she is the girl who 'hollas' the chants, not one of the girls who simply 'hollas' them back".[8] The most commonly accepted meaning is that a hollaback girl responds to a confrontation with words but that Stefani would rather take initiative and "step it up".[9]

Music and structure

The riff and chord pattern alternating between B major (I) and D♯ minor (iii{}^6_4)

"Hollaback Girl" is a moderately fast song, being 110bpm, in the key of B major.[10] It combines old school hip hop with dance music,[11] and—like the majority of pop music—is set in common time. The main chord pattern of the song alternates between B major and D sharp minor triads.[10] Most of the harmonic content of the song revolves around a two-chord alternation which music theorists may regard as an L (leading tone) transformation, in which the root of the major chord is lowered by a half-step to form a second inversion minor chord on the third scale degree (see image to right). This stepwise motion between B and A-sharp highlights this chord change. It is in verse-chorus form with a bridge before the fourth and final chorus. The song features sparse instrumentation, primarily a minimal beat[12] produced by drum machine.[13][14] A guitar plays the song's riff, a six-note pattern as Stefani repeats "this my shit" during the chorus, and a brass section joins during the second chorus.[9] In part because of its cheerleading motif, it drew comparisons to Toni Basil's "Mickey" (1982).[15][16]


"Hollaback Girl" had a polarizing effect on music critics. LAUNCHcast's Jennifer Nine described it as a "stomping, stripped-back track",[17] and Allmusic said that it had the "thumping, minimal beats of The Neptunes."[13] Richard Smirke called it "a trademark Neptunes hip-hop stomp."[18] In its review of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Rolling Stone gave the song a positive review, writing that "Stefani's gum-snapping sass brings out the beast in her beatmasters, especially the Neptunes in 'Hollaback Girl'."[19] Blender listed it as the eleventh best song of 2005,[20] and the song tied with Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock" for number five on the 2005 Pazz & Jop, a survey of several hundred music critics conducted by Robert Christgau.[21]

On the other hand, Jason Damas, in a review for PopMatters, described the song as sounding "almost exactly like Dizzee Rascal", and added, "lyrically, this is where Gwen sinks the lowest here, especially on a breakdown where she repeats, 'This shit is bananas / B-A-N-A-N-A-S!' several times".[22] Eric Greenwood of Drawer B Media called the song "moronic and embarrassingly tuneless. I'd quote the lyrics, but they're so bad, I almost feel sorry for her. A 35-year-old woman singing about pom-poms and 'talking shit' in high school betrays such a delusional self-image that it's hard not to be taken aback. And on top of that, The Neptunes' beats are clunky and the production is senselessly bombastic."[23] Nick Sylvester of Pitchfork Media also criticized the track, referring to it as a "Queen pastiche...which has about as much club potential as a 13-year old with a milk moustache and his dad's ID". However, despite this initial review Pitchfork Media would later list the track #35 on their top singles of 2005, and #180 on the top 500 songs of the 2000s.[24] Maxim was unimpressed with the song, and in its October 2005 issue, published a list of the "20 Most Annoying Songs Ever" with "Hollaback Girl" in first place.[25]

"Hollaback Girl" was mocked on an episode of the animated television series Family Guy titled "Deep Throats"; after watching a VH1 special about Gwen Stefani, Brian Griffin states, "I don't know what a Hollaback Girl is—all I know is that I want her dead."[26] In another episode of Family Guy the song was mocked again, this time in the guise of a parody of the feature film The Shawshank Redemption. In the film, Red (played by Morgan Freeman), upon hearing "Canzonetta sull'aria" (from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro) for the first time, states that he has no idea what the women are singing about, but imagines it must be something beautiful. In the parody, Cleveland (playing the role of Red) hears "Hollaback Girl" and likewise claims to have no idea what Stefani is singing about—even though the lyrics are not in a foreign language (as is the issue in the film). Cleveland imagines it is "a foul, disease-ridden thing, that wears too much makeup to cover up the fact that it's a 47 year-old fish-dog".

The song's bridge, in which Stefani exclaims "This shit is bananas" and then proceeds to spell bananas, was later parodied in an episode of the claymation television show Celebrity Deathmatch, in which Stefani spells out bananas, broccoli, and kumquat during an interview with Tally Wong.[27]

Chart performance

Stefani performing "Hollaback Girl" on tour

The single was officially solicited to radio in North America on 5 April 2005, although the music video had been released two weeks earlier, on 21 March. "Hollaback Girl" entered the Billboard Hot 100, the main U.S. chart, at number eighty-two, and within six weeks of its release, it had reached the top of the chart, making it the fastest-rising single to reach the top in 2005; it also became Stefani's first U.S. number one.[28] It maintained the number one position for four weeks.[29] The single spent thirty-one weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, twenty-nine of which were in the top fifty.[28] It was removed from the Hot 100 for the week ending 29 October 2005.[28] On the year-end chart, the song was the second most successful, beaten by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together".[30]

"Hollaback Girl" held the record for most U.S. radio airplays in one week, with 9,582 plays, and maintained this feat for over a year before Shakira and Wyclef Jean's "Hips Don't Lie" overtook the position.[31] It peaked at number one on the Billboard Pop 100 for eight weeks,[32] and was a small success in the dance clubs, peaking at number fifteen on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.[33] The song was a crossover success, and reached number four on the Rhythmic Top 40, and number eight on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.[33]

A performance of "Hollaback Girl", including a marching band and cheerleaders

The song was noted for having a large number of digital downloads, becoming the first single to sell more digital downloads than CDs.[34] In October 2005, "Hollaback Girl" was the first single to ever sell one million digital downloads and later went on to sell a total of 1.2 million downloads;[34][35] it was certified quintuple platinum.[36] Due to its downloads, it reached number one on both digital sales charts concurrently, and it topped the year-end Hot Digital Songs chart.[37]

"Hollaback Girl" was a successful single in Canada, where the song debuted at number twelve on the Canadian Singles Chart; however, it fell from there and was unable to reach a higher position.[38] It remained in the top fifty for six months.[38] However, the Canadian Recording Industry Association later argued that based on Canada's population relative to the U.S., the single should have sold around 120,000 copies and that the comparatively lower sales of 25,000 were a sign that Canadian copyright law should be tightened to discourage non-commercial peer-to-peer filesharing.[39] Columnist Michael Geist disputed the comparison, arguing that the Canadian online music market was still developing.[40]

Stefani and the Harajuku Girls performing "Hollaback Girl" on The Sweet Escape Tour

In the rest of the world, reaction to "Hollaback Girl" was generally positive, though not as overwhelming as in North America. It was released in Australia on 23 May 2005, debuting at number one, and in Europe on 6 June 2005, debuting at number twenty-two and eventually reaching number five.[38] In the United Kingdom, however, "Hollaback Girl" did not perform as well as Stefani's previous releases. The song's predecessors, "What You Waiting For?" and "Rich Girl", had both reached number four, while "Hollaback Girl" debuted at number eight, and stalled at the same position the following week.[28] Although its UK success was limited, it remained in the top forty for an additional eleven weeks and sold more than Rich Girl.[28] The single largely was successful across Europe and Asia, and reached the top five in Austria, Germany, Ireland, and China, and the top ten in Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.[38]

The single had moderate success in Latin America. The single debuted 19 June 2005 at number thirty-three on the Latin America Top 40, a weaker debut than Stefani's previous singles.[41] After eight weeks on the chart, it peaked at number nine.[42]

Music video

Stefani on a Chevrolet Impala with the album coverart

The music video was directed by Paul Hunter and filmed in Van Nuys and Reseda, California, United States.[43] The video opens with a scene of Stefani spending time with her Harajuku Girls, when a crowd of students appears. Stefani and the Harajuku Girls then drive down Sherman Way past Magnolia Science Academy to Birmingham High School in a 1961 Chevrolet Impala, accompanied by the crowd.[43][44] Stefani and the group cause a commotion when they disrupt a football game by walking onto the field and when they go to a 99 Cents Only Store and throw cereal and other food products down an aisle. Throughout the video, there are intercut sequences of choreographed dancing filmed in a sound stage, intended to represent Stefani's imagination.[45] Stefani and the Harajuku Girls are outfitted in cheerleading uniforms, accompanied by several Californian spirit groups: the Orange Crush All Stars, a cheerleading squad from Orange County; a marching band from Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley; a pep flag team named the Carson High School Flaggies from Carson; and a drill team from Stephen M. White Middle School in Carson.[43] To visualize the song's bridge, the Harajuku Girls spell the word "bananas" with cue cards. The video ends with a close-up frame of Stefani with her arms in the air.

The Chevy Impala convertible from the video includes a painting by artist J. Martin.[7] The design includes Gwen Stefani as seen on the album cover of Love. Angel. Music. Baby. with the words "Hollaback Girl" in calligraphy. Eventually, the car was sold on eBay.[7] Pharrell, one of the song's co-producers, makes a cameo appearance. The complete version of "Hollaback Girl" featured in the music video has been released commercially through CD singles and digital downloads, and some include remixes by Diplo and Tony Kanal.

The video debuted on 21 March 2005 and proved successful on video-chart programs.[46] It debuted on MTV's Total Request Live on 31 March at number ten and remained on the program for a total of fifty days,[47] becoming what Rolling Stone called "a staple of MTV's TRL".[48] The video reached the top of the chart[49] and was retired at number four on 23 June, becoming Stefani's first video to retire.[50] It also reached the top of MuchMusic's Countdown three months after its debut, and remained there for two weeks.[38] VH1 listed the song at number five on its Top 40 Videos of 2005,[51] and at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, the music video received four nominations[52] but only won the award for Best Choreography.[53] Stefani did not attend the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, prompting rumors that she was protesting her lack of nominations the previous year, her multiple losses to Kelly Clarkson, and her not having been asked to perform.[54] Stefani denied the rumors, responding, "the only reason I am not attending the MTV Video Music Awards is because I will be recording and spending time with my family."[55]

Formats and track listings

Problems listening to these files? See media help.
Maxi single
  1. "Hollaback Girl" (Album Version) – 3:20
  2. "Hollaback Girl" (Diplo's Hollatronic Remix) – 2:17
  3. "Hollaback Girl" (Instrumental) – 3:20
  4. "Hollaback Girl" (Video) – 3:20
CD single
  1. "Hollaback Girl" (Clean Version) – 3:20
  2. "Hollaback Girl" (Diplo's Hollatronic Remix) – 2:17


Diplo made a remix for the track after M.I.A. turned down an offer to produce one.[56] Tony Kanal, Stefani's ex-boyfriend and fellow No Doubt member, produced a remix titled the "Dancehollaback Remix". The track features reggae singer Elan Atias, whose debut album Kanal produced, and appears as a single on iTunes, on the CD single for "Cool", and on a remix CD of Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Stefani later requested to contribute vocals on "I Wanna Yell" from Atias's debut album Together as One,[57] and was featured on his song "Allnighter". The female rapper Ak'sent released a mixtape with the song as well. The band Cobra Starship also recorded a parody of this song titled "Hollaback Boy".

Credits and personnel

Release history

The single was first released in Australia and New Zealand on March 15, 2005. Releases followed in Canada and the United States on April 5, 2005, Ireland and the United Kingdom on June 21, 2005, and July 2, 2005 in continental Europe.

Chart performance and sales

Chart (2005)[28][38] Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 1
Austrian Singles Chart 5
Canadian Singles Chart 12
Danish Singles Chart 5 [58]
Dutch Top 40 8
Finland Singles Chart 8
French SNEP Singles Chart 17
Germany Media Control Charts 3
Greek Singles Chart 14
Irish Singles Chart 4
Italian Singles Chart 6
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 3
Norwegian Singles Chart 6
Romanian Singles Chart[59] 22
Swedish Singles Chart 7
Swiss Singles Chart 6
UK Singles Chart 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 18
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 15
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 8
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 1
U.S. Billboard Rhythmic Top 40 4
U.S. Billboard Top 40 Mainstream 1

Year-end charts

Year End Chart (2005) Peak
Billboard Eurochart[60] 44
UK Singles Chart[61] 47
US Billboard Hot 100 Chart[62] 2
US Billboard Hot Digital Songs Chart[63] 1
US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs Chart[64] 55

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
Billboard Pop 100 number-one single
May 7, 2005 – June 25, 2005
Succeeded by
"Inside Your Heaven" by Carrie Underwood
American Top 40
May 21, 2005 – July 2, 2005
Succeeded by
"We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey
Preceded by
"Candy Shop" by 50 Cent featuring Olivia
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
May 7, 2005 – May 28, 2005
Preceded by
"Don't Phunk with My Heart" by The Black Eyed Peas
ARIA (Australia) number-one single
May 29, 2005
Succeeded by
"Don't Phunk with My Heart" by The Black Eyed Peas


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