By Whitney Pastorek
January 10, 2007 at 12:00 PM EST

Let’s start by saying that I am perhaps the wrong person to undertake this particular Snap Judgment as my bias against all late-era Gwen Stefani has been well established, but never the less, here I am, prepared to watch and assess the former No Doubt singer’s latest personal branding exercise, er, music video, which you can watch here. (Thanks, Yahoo and Pepsi!)

First of all, I’m thrilled to announce that “The Sweet Escape” is actually a song and not a collection of guttural noises and random samples like “Wind It Up,” but my excitement at the presence of real live singing and a modicum of melody has been tempered immediately by the ongoing commercialization of Gwen as a brand. Where she used to be strong and empowering, now I mostly find her shallow and glossy, more concerned with hairstyles than substance, with bling and boys than self-awareness. (Just because you can make your first initial look like the Fendi logo doesn’t mean you should.) The irony of it all is that her feminist period occurred while single, and in a band with dudes; now that she’s a married wife and mother with a solo career, she’s acting like a sugared-up tween at the mall with a credit card.

But I suppose none of that has anything to do with this video. Ordoes it? There’s Gwen, trapped in a golden cage, because celebrity ishard! Then she gets out, but she has to use her own perfectly sculptedhair to haul the Harajuku Girls up the side of a building. That musthave hurt… but then, when you’re famous, it often feels as thoughpeople just want to use you (and your beautiful hair) to climb to thetop! Thank God, then, that Akon comes along! The dashing Senegaleseman takes her to 7-Eleven in his Chevy (JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT THATCAR WAS A CHEVROLET THANK YOU FOR WATCHING), and sitting there in thefront seat drinking her Big Gulp, Gwen can finally be free. Hooray!Except… oh, it was only a dream. And there she is, back in her goldencage. Damn this fame and all these riches! And has someone bronzed thebaby?

Yeah, so, I’m clearly thrilled with this. Sigh. Why am I so crabby?It’s a perfectly catchy song (the “woo-hoo”s are super fun), the videois cool-lookin’ (especially the parts with the blue background and Gwenau naturel)… I guess I just expect more. You?