Rock Steady (album): Wikis


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Rock Steady
Studio album by No Doubt
Released December 11, 2001
Genre Dance rock, reggae fusion
Length 49:14
Label Interscope
Producer No Doubt, Nellee Hooper, The Neptunes, Ric Ocasek, William Orbit, Prince, Sly & Robbie, Steely & Clevie, Philip Steir, Mark "Spike" Stent
No Doubt chronology
Return of Saturn
Rock Steady
The Singles 1992–2003
Singles from Rock Steady
  1. "Hey Baby"
    Released: October 29, 2001
  2. "Hella Good"
    Released: April 13, 2002
  3. "Underneath It All"
    Released: August 15, 2002
  4. "Running"
    Released: July 1, 2003

Rock Steady is the fifth album by American rock band No Doubt, released December 11, 2001 on Interscope Records. The band began writing the album with initial recording sessions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, then traveled to London and Jamaica to work with various performers, songwriters, and producers. Sly & Robbie, The Neptunes, and William Orbit were among the many artists the band collaborated with on the album.

As a result of the many collaborations, Rock Steady touches on many musical styles. The album focuses more on dub, synthpop, and dance styles. The band attempted to capture the vibe of Jamaican dancehall music, and experimented with writing songs without its standard instrumentation. Singer Gwen Stefani wrote her lyrics quickly in comparison to previous records, and dealt with topics ranging from partying to ruminations on her relationship with Gavin Rossdale.

Rock Steady received mostly positive reviews from music critics, and it was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 45th Grammy Awards. The album served as a commercial comeback for the band, surpassing sales of its previous offering, Return of Saturn, released in 2000. Rock Steady spawned four singles, two of which won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.


Background and production

Every night on the tour to support their 2000 album Return of Saturn, No Doubt would throw aftershow parties where people would dance to Jamaican dancehall music. During a discussion over dinner in late-2000, the band members decided they wanted to explore dancehall-style rhythms. for their next album.[1] Drawing inspiration from artists such as Bounty Killer, Cutty Ranks, and Mr. Vegas,[2] the band began work on the album in January 2001 by creating beats on Pro Tools at guitarist Tom Dumont's apartment. The group often tried recreating beats from other song files on the computer, which resulted in modified versions of the original rhythms.[1] It worked with producer Philip Steir at Toast Studios in San Francisco during this time, where the beginnings of "Hey Baby" emerged.[3] When writing lyrics for previous albums, Stefani typically read works by Sylvia Plath that would make her depressed "or find different words that inspire me."[1] In contrast, for Rock Steady she wrote the lyrics quicker and on the spot to meet the goal of writing a song a day. Many of the demos recorded during these early sessions were used in the final tracks, rather than completely reworking the songs. The band saw this as a way to preserve the "initial spark" from when the songs were conceived.[2]

The next month, Stefani left Los Angeles for London to visit boyfriend Gavin Rossdale, and the band traveled with her to finish recording "Detective".[1] There, they worked with Eurythmics member David A. Stewart and wrote the song "Underneath It All" in only ten minutes.[4] In March No Doubt traveled to Jamaica, staying at the Blue Lagoon in Port Antonio.[2] The band "spent most of the time swimming and getting sunburned and drinking and smoking and recording a little music", according to Dumont.[5] The group would often have Red Stripe beers or rum and cokes with jerk food for breakfast;[1][2] on one occasion Dumont passed out from heavy drinking while recording a track.[1] They began work in the mid-afternoon and worked into the night, with an after-party following the session.[2] The group collaborated with Sly & Robbie, who produced "Underneath It All" and "Hey Baby" and brought in dancehall toasters Lady Saw and Bounty Killer, and Steely & Clevie, who produced "Start the Fire".

The band returned from Jamaica and resumed work in June, collaborating with producers Nellee Hooper and Timbaland.[6] The Timbaland track, titled "It's a Fight", and a Dr. Dre-produced song titled "Wicked Day" were excluded from the album because their hip hop sounds did not work well on the album.[7] The band then worked with producer and former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek in late June.[5] Stefani commented that No Doubt worked with so many people for the record because none were available for the time needed to make an LP, but that she would have liked to work with Ocasek longer.[8] The band and its A&R manager Mark Williams chose collaborators based on how well they thought the person would fit the personality of the song that No Doubt had written.[2] In late August, the band returned to London for Mark "Spike" Stent to polish off the songs with audio mixing.[1]


The band members often did not play their standard instruments when working on the songs for Rock Steady.[9] As a result, the album's instrumentation contains less guitar and bass guitar than the band's previous work.[10] Many of the album's sounds come from electronic keyboard effects, which bassist Tony Kanal called "Devo-y bleeps and Star Wars noises".[1] Dumont commented that many of the effects came from being unfamiliar with the equipment and "just twiddling knobs".[11] Dumont created an effect similar to that of an echo chamber by placing a microphone inside a metal garbage can with the can's open end facing a drum kit.[12] Richard B. Simon of MTV News asserted that the sound of Rock Steady was part of the decade nostalgia of the 1980s retro movement.[13]

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Rock Steady maintains many of the styles present in No Doubt's previous work, while introducing influences from the music of Jamaica. "Hey Baby", "Underneath It All" and "Start the Fire" all feature dancehall and ragga, an electronic-oriented subgenre, as well as guest toasters.[14] The latter, written using backward string samples, also contains the band's traditional ska and reggae sounds.[3] Ocasek produced the New Wave-influenced tracks "Don't Let Me Down" and "Platinum Blonde Life", the former of which was described as sounding "more like the Cars than the Cars".[15] "Platinum Blonde Life" was so strongly influenced by The Cars' work that Kanal apologized to Ocasek, though Ocasek apologized back that he hadn't seen the similarity.[9] The synthpop ballad "Running" was composed on a Yamaha keyboard purchased for Kanal in the 1980s and drew inspiration from the Thompson Twins.[3] Its simple keyboard riff drew comparisons to the work of Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Yazoo.[16]

Because of the number of collaborations, the album touches on several other styles. "Waiting Room", a song written with Prince for Return of Saturn, evokes his R&B style over a drum and bass beat.[1][17] "Hella Good", an electro rock song co-written with hip hop production duo The Neptunes, is inspired by the funk songs of the late 1970s such as Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and the Commodores' "Brick House".[2] William Orbit, best known for his work on Madonna's electronica-oriented Ray of Light, incorporates trance music in the production of "Making Out". "Detective", one of the five tracks produced by Hooper, takes slight influence from pop music.[18] The album's title track closes the album by tying together the many musical themes.[19] It is slow dub song,[19] with acid house-style bleeps and moans.[20]

Stefani's vocals range from innocent to seductive, sometimes transitioning from one to the other within a song.[18] Her lyrics are based on her relationship with Rossdale, whom she married less than a year after the album's release.[19] Stefani is openhearted and unreserved as on Return of Saturn, but her approach becomes more immediate and instinctive.[18] The lyrics are more youthful than those on Return of Saturn and detail partying and feelings of lust.[21] An overarching theme on the album is Stefani's impatience in the couple's long-distance relationship. She discusses wanting to see Rossdale on "Making Out" and "Waiting Room", and she reveals her distrust in Rossdale on "In My Head".[19] On "Hey Baby" she gives an innocuous account of the debauchery between her bandmates and their groupies during parties, as she observes the party.[8] The lyrics of "Underneath It All" question whether or not Rossdale is a good match for her,[16] an issue resolved in the chorus, which was written based on a journal entry where Stefani wrote the line "You're lovely underneath it all" about Rossdale.[22]

Critical reception

 Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Blender 3/5 stars[23]
NME (7/10)[24]
Vibe 3.5/5 stars[25]
The Boston Globe (favorable)[1]
Allmusic 4/5 stars[14]
Spin (8/10)[26]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[21]
Stylus (C)[20]
Slant 4.5/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[16]

The album received generally positive reviews from critics. Rolling Stone said it was "impressive to hear No Doubt summon the musical imagination to transcend the formula that used to imprison them"[16] and ranked Rock Steady number 316 on its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[15] Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic referred to the album as "a good, hooky, stylish mainstream pop record".[14] Entertainment Weekly remarked that there was "something oddly flimsy" about No Doubt that prevented it from becoming a milestone in pop music, but that the band's "party-throwing skills improve with each new gathering."[21] Stylus Magazine commented that the band sounded like it had "growing pains" and was unsure of its place in mainstream rock, predicting that No Doubt would either become a singles band "or go all Radiohead on us and make an album of avant-jazz-electro-acid-funk-polka."[20]

Many reviewers focused on the large number of styles that Rock Steady incorporates. PopMatters, noting that Rock Steady maintains the introspection of Return of Saturn without the latter's "longing and wistfulness", stated that "it is to No Doubt's credit…that they manage to keep the album together with little more than their collective personalities."[18] Blender, however, called it "an intermittently engaging but overall shapeless collection…the product of happy-go-lucky musicians who once cavorted in bad track suits but now spend their days commuting between London, Jamaica and Los Angeles seeking the wisdom of expensive studio geeks."[23] Nevertheless, Blender included the album in its 2003 list of "500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die!".[27] The NME viewed the album's "enormous waterfront of styles" positively, noting that it had many strong potential singles, but found that some of the "empty-headed guitar pop" on second half of the album spoiled the listening experience.[24] Time stated that Rock Steady was able to integrate ska, pop, New Wave, and dancehall "without sounding contrived or chaotic". It added that though the album lacked the energy and sales of No Doubt's 1995 breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom, Rock Steady was "their greatest effort to date…the sound of band dropping pretense to realize its potential."[28] Slant Magazine included Rock Steady on its list of 50 Essential Pop Albums, commenting that "not since Blondie…has a rock act so effortlessly, irreverently, and fashionably skidded across so many different genre boundaries at one time."[19] LAUNCHcast said that "even with so many producers attempting to steer this bus along the superstar highway, they end up in a better-than-most parking lot".[29]

Release and impact

Stefani, Stephen Bradley, and Kanal performing on the Rock Steady Tour in March 2002.

Rock Steady sold approximately three million copies.[15] NME reviewer Alex Needham compared the album's revival of No Doubt's popularity to the performance of Madonna's 1998 album Ray of Light.[24] The album debuted and peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, selling 255,000 copies in its first week.[30] By 2002 it was certified double platinum.[31] At the 2003 Grammy Awards, the album was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album but lost to Norah Jones' Come Away with Me.[32] The lead single "Hey Baby" and third single "Underneath It All" won the award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 2003 and 2004 Grammy Awards, respectively.[32][33]

The album did not perform as strongly outside the United States. In September 2002, Rock Steady was certified platinum in Canada,[34] and in the United Kingdom, the album is certified silver.[35] It peaked at number fifteen on the ARIA Albums Chart and spent nine non-consecutive weeks in the top forty.[36] The album was listed at number ninety-seven on the 2002 Australian Recording Industry Association end-of-year chart,[37] and was certified gold by the ARIA.[38]

Following the success of the regular edition, Rock Steady had two special edition re-releases in 2002, each of which had a bonus CD. The two-song CD features acoustic live performances of "Underneath It All" and "Just a Girl" recorded at 1Live in Cologne, Germany in June 2002 as well as the music video for "Underneath It All". The four-song CD includes a remix of "Hey Baby" featuring OutKast and Killer Mike; another remix by F.A.B.Z.; Roger Sanchez's remix of "Hella Good", which won a Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical;[39] and a remix of Return of Saturn's lead single "Ex-Girlfriend" made by Philip Steir, who helped produce "Hey Baby". The songs from the two-song bonus disc were released in North American iTunes Stores, and those from the four-song bonus disc were released in other countries. Rock Steady Live, a live DVD of No Doubt performing in 2002 in support of Rock Steady, was released in November 2003.

Rock Steady produced the band's most successful singles. "Hey Baby" preceded the album with an October 2001 release. It set a record for the band when it reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100.[40] The positive response to "Hey Baby" from radio stations and video channels prompted the band to push forward the release of Rock Steady from December 18 to December 11.[41] The next single, "Hella Good", was released in April 2002. It was somewhat less successful and peaked at number thirteen. It was followed by "Underneath It All", which was released that August. The single is No Doubt's most successful American single to date, peaking at number three on the Hot 100, and like "Hey Baby", it managed to top the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart. The fourth and final singles was "Running" in April 2003. Peaking at number sixty-two, "Running" became No Doubt's lowest position on the Hot 100 to date.[40]

When singer-songwriter Jewel released her fifth album 0304 in June 2003, reinventing and sexualizing her public image, music critics identified Rock Steady and Ray of Light as influences on the album. Stylus Magazine compared 0304's retro tribute to New Wave music with that on Rock Steady.[42] Blender commented that Jewel had "brushed up on two sacred pop texts, the Manual of Madonna and the Gospel According to Gwen". The magazine compared her use of a more restrained, throaty purr to Stefani's vocals and noted 0304's use of "jumpy bubblegum choruses and boop-boop-beeping keyboards" as descendents of No Doubt's production.[43]

Track listing

# Title Songwriters Producer(s) Length
1 "Intro" 0:27
2 "Hella Good" Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, Tony Kanal Nellee Hooper, The Neptunes, No Doubt 4:02
3 "Hey Baby"
featuring Bounty Killer
Stefani, Kanal, Tom Dumont, Rodney Price No Doubt, Sly & Robbie, Mark "Spike" Stent 3:27
4 "Making Out" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont No Doubt, William Orbit 4:15
5 "Underneath It All"
featuring Lady Saw
Stefani, David A. Stewart No Doubt, Sly & Robbie, Stent 5:02
6 "Detective" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont Hooper, No Doubt 2:54
7 "Don't Let Me Down" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont No Doubt, Ric Ocasek, Stent 4:08
8 "Start the Fire" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont No Doubt, Steely & Clevie 4:12
9 "Running" Stefani, Kanal Hooper, No Doubt 4:02
10 "In My Head" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont Hooper, No Doubt 3:25
11 "Platinum Blonde Life" Stefani, Kanal, Dumont No Doubt, Ocasek, Stent 3:28
12 "Waiting Room" Prince, Stefani, Kanal, Dumont No Doubt, Prince, Stent 4:27
13 "Rock Steady" Stefani, Kanal Hooper, No Doubt 5:24
2-song bonus CD
  1. "Underneath It All" (live) – 3:44
  2. "Just a Girl" (live) – 3:32
  3. "Underneath It All" (video)
4-song bonus CD
  1. "Hey Baby" featuring OutKast and Killer Mike (dirty version) – 4:10
  2. "Hey Baby" (The Homeboy Mix) – 3:50
  3. "Hella Good" (Roger's Release Yourself Mix) – 7:16
  4. "Ex-Girlfriend" (The Psycho Ex Mix) – 7:42
  5. "Hey Baby" (video)
  6. "Hella Good" (video)
  7. "Underneath It All" (video)

Enhanced content

  • "Hey Baby" Video
  • "Rock Steady" Screensaver
  • The Making of "Rock Steady"


No Doubt

Additional personnel

  • Bounty Killer – performer
  • Lady Saw – performer
  • Gabrial McNairtrombone, keyboard
  • Ric Ocasek – keyboard
  • Andy Potts – saxophone
  • Prince – keyboard, background vocals
  • Robbie Shakespeare – bass
  • Django Stewart – saxophone


  • Producers: No Doubt, Nellee Hooper, Ric Ocasek, William Orbit, Prince, Sly & Robbie, Steely & Clevie, Philip Steir, Mark "Spike" Stent
  • Executive producers: Brian Jobson, Wayne Jobson
  • Engineers: Rory Baker, Hans Buff, Daniel Chase, Greg Collins, Count, Karl Derfler, Tom Dumont, Simon Gogerly, Alain Johannes, Tony Kanal, Tkae Mendez
  • Assistant engineers: Jeff Kanan, Anthony Kilhoffer, Steve Mandel, Ian Rossiter, Juan Pablo Velasco, Jennifer Young
  • Mixing: Matt Fields, Mark "Spike" Stent, David Treahearn, Keith Uddin
  • Mixing programmers: John Gould, Wayne Wilkins
  • Mastering: Brian Gardner
  • A&R: Mark Williams
  • Programming: Ned Douglas, Tom Dumont, Sly Dunbar, Tony Kanal, Sean Spuehler, Gwen Stefani, Philip Steir
  • Art conception: Gwen Stefani
  • Design: Jolie Clemens
  • Layout design: Jolie Clemens
  • Photography: Shawn Mortenson, Frank Ockenfels
  • Package coordinators: Cindy Cooper, Ekaterina Kenney


Chart (2001) Peak
Billboard 200[44] 9
Chart (2002) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[36] 15
Austrian Albums Chart[45] 12
Finnish Albums Chart[46] 34
New Zealand Albums Chart[47] 17
Swedish Albums Chart[48] 52
Swiss Albums Chart[49] 33
Chart (2003) Peak
French Albums Chart[50] 79


Country Certification Sales
Australia Gold[51] 35,000+
Canada Platinum[52] 100,000+
United States 3× Platinum [53] 3,000,000+


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Edwards, Gavin. "No Doubt Make Party Music". Rolling Stone. October 16, 2001. Retrieved April 16, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Orshoski, Wes. "No Doubt Feels 'Rock Steady'". Billboard. November 21, 2001. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Montoya, Paris and Lanham, Tom. The Singles 1992-2003 (liner notes). Interscope Records. November 25, 2003.
  4. ^ Scaggs, Austin. "No Doubt Nab Prince, Dre". Rolling Stone. May 3, 2001. Retrieved April 16, 2001.
  5. ^ a b VanHorn, Teri and Waller, Curtis. "No Doubt: Recording New Album Runs Rings Around Saturn". MTV News. June 18, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
  6. ^ "Timeline". Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Wiederhorn, Jon and Rankin, Rebecca. "No Doubt's 'Hey Baby' Pays Tribute To Drooling, Gawking Groupies". MTV News. November 1, 2001. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
  9. ^ a b Wielenga, Dave. "The Happy Ones". OC Weekly. December 6, 2001. Retrieved September 17, 2001.
  10. ^ VanHorn, Teri. "No Doubt Head To Jamaica To Stir Up Reggae Sound". MTV News.March 30, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
  11. ^ Norris, John. "No Doubt: Time To Party". MTV News. 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
  12. ^ "Making of Rock Steady". Rock Steady bonus CD. Interscope Records. December 11, 2001.
  13. ^ Simon, Richard B. "Rock Steady Show Leaves No Doubt About '80s Revival". MTV News. March 19, 2002. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  14. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Rock Steady > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  15. ^ a b c "316) Rock Steady". Rolling Stone. November 1, 2003. Retrieved March 31, 2007.
  16. ^ a b c d Scheffield, Rob. "Rock Steady: Review". Rolling Stone. January 17, 2002. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  17. ^ Massa, Beth. "Rock Steady: Music: No Doubt". Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  18. ^ a b c d Miller, Eden. "No Doubt: Rock Steady". PopMatters. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
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  25. ^ "Rock Steady Review". Vibe: p. 121. February 2002. 
  26. ^ "Rock Steady Review". Spin: p. 105–106. January 2002. 
  27. ^ Aizlewood, John. "500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die!". Blender. April 2003. Retrieved September 21, 2007.
  28. ^ Reyes, Kimberly. "'Rock Steady,' by No Doubt". Time. January 15, 2002. Retrieved November 20, 2007.
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  30. ^ Jenison, David. "U2 Bombs the Charts". E! Online. December 1, 2004. Retrieved from LAUNCHcast April 13, 2007.
  31. ^ "Linkin Park Moves Two Steps Closer". Recording Industry Association of America. February 4, 2002. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  32. ^ a b D'angelo, Joe. "Norah Jones Sweeps Grammys, Boss Wins Three, Avril Shut Out". MTV News. February 24, 2003. Retrieved April 13, 2007.
  33. ^ Mueller, Gavin. "46th Annual Grammy Awards". Stylus Magazine. February 11, 2004. Retrieved April 13, 2007.
  34. ^ "Gold & Platinum - September 2002". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  35. ^ "Platinum Awards Content". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
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  42. ^ Cinquemani, Sal. "Music Review: Jewel: 0304". Slant Magazine. 2003. Retrieved October 10, 2007.
  43. ^ Light, Alan. "Jewel : 0304 Review". Blender. Retrieved October 10, 2007.
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