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Spark the Fire

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"Spark the Fire"
Stefani is shown wearing a cloud-patterned shirt while standing in front of a picture covered in emojis
Single by Gwen Stefani
Released December 1, 2014 (2014-12-01)
Format Digital download
Genre
Length 3:22
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Pharrell Williams
Gwen Stefani singles chronology
"Baby Don't Lie"
(2014)
"Spark the Fire"
(2014)
"Kings Never Die"
(2015)

"Spark the Fire" is a song recorded by American singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani. The song was released on December 1, 2014. It was originally intended to be featured on Stefani's third studio album This Is What the Truth Feels Like, but it was scrapped in favor of new material. Stefani wrote "Spark the Fire" in collaboration with the song's producer Pharrell Williams. It is a dance-pop and hip hop track that incorporates funk. Along with the previous single, "Baby Don't Lie", the track was marketed as Stefani's musical comeback as a solo artist.

Critical responses to "Spark the Fire" were mixed with critics negatively comparing it to Stefani and Williams' previous collaboration "Hollaback Girl", while others favored it compared to "Baby Don't Lie". Lyrically, the song serves as a "comeback", discussing topics such as partying, having a good time, and feminism. "Spark the Fire" charted on Russia's music chart at number 326, failing to impact any other country's main chart, managing only to peak on the lower ends of the US Dance Club and Pop Digital Songs charts. Stefani performed the song live during various public appearances, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon where she performed it alongside a medley mix of her previous singles.

Background[edit]

After releasing two solo albums, Love. Angel. Music. Baby (2004) and The Sweet Escape (2006), Stefani returned to work with her band No Doubt, and in 2012 they released their sixth studio album, Push and Shove.[1] During that time, she claimed, "I never need to do that or want to do it again. I'm happy being in No Doubt."[2] However, after an appearance during Pharrell Williams' performance at the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Pharrell teased that the rare live appearance from Stefani was the start of a comeback effort for the singer.[3] Shortly after her Coachella performance, Stefani performed "Hollaback Girl" live on The Voice to further promote her upcoming role on the show.[4]

During an interview for MTV News during New York Fashion Week, Stefani confirmed that she was working on new material for a solo album and a No Doubt album; she also stated, "I'm going into the studio tonight with Pharrell [Williams], I'm going to be writing and also just seeing what comes along my way. I've been recording a few things."[5] Williams completed, "When I tell you she's killing it, it's another level."[5] In an interview with the Windy City Media Group, Stefani said "[the song] was so perfect for my story-for what I was feeling in my own personal life-that I didn't even get it as a feminist anthem. I thought it was just about me! I was just feeling me."[6] After the release of "Baby Don't Lie" a month prior, "Spark the Fire" was released on December 1, 2014.[7]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"Spark the Fire" was written by Stefani and Pharrell Williams; Williams serves as the track's sole producer.[8] The song is a dance-pop and hip hop track,[9][10] with inclusions of funk music and heavy percussion.[11] August Brown of the Los Angeles Times described the song as "full of vintage Pharrell moves: pep-band drum lines, percussive blips and a lot of open space for Stefani's gum-smacking shouts".[12] Lyrically, the song discusses several different themes; Feminism and "girl power" is made clear in the lyric "It is time for the girl species to grow / I am a Libra / Let's balance the scales", while partying and clubbing is made clear in the lyric "Who got the lighter? / Let's spark the fire".[8] In a 2014 interview with Scott T. Sterling, Williams stated that the "coolest part" of the song was "the sound and direction", particularly the song's lyrics dicscussing "feminism and women standing up for themselves, and standing together".[13] He described the song as inspired by his feeling that "the female species has been suppressed long enough", calling the lyric "Enough's enough. Who's got the lighter? / Let's spark the fire" Stefani's way of demanding more respect for women.[14] In an interview with PopSugar's Lindsay Miller, Stefani identified the song as being "a very personal song" and "my journey" instead of a feminist anthem, but supported Williams' interpretation, saying "I love when people discover their own opinions about a song". Miller described Stefani's hesitation with the word feminism as "com[ing] more from a place of humility than an attempt to avoid controversy".[15]

Critical reception[edit]

"Spark the Fire" received mixed reviews from critics. August Brown, writing for the Los Angeles Times, praised the single for being "a welcome return to the studio styles" of both Stefani and Williams.[12] Hayden Manders of Refinery29 gave the single a positive review, calling it "a throwback for the modern age" and "a song of unity".[16] BreatheHeavy's Jordan Miller praised the song for having "that typical Gwen sass combined with Pharrell’s signature quirky beats and rhythm". Miller chose the lyrics "get off my cloud" as an example of Stefani's vocal delivery being "rap-sing-talking business".[17] However, he later criticized both "Spark the Fire" and "Baby Don't Lie" for being "bland".[18]

With a more divided opinion, Slant Magazine's Alexa Camp called the song "an attempt to repeat those past hits than update the singer's sound for '2015'", but described it as an improvement over the previous single "Baby Don't Lie",[19] while Eliza Berman of Time said that "though it's more repetitive and packs less oozing attitude than "Hollaback Girl", it should serve the club nearly as well."[8] In a negative review, Lucas Villas of AXS described the song as "a dud" and viewed it as "a whole lot of hot air" that failed in its attempt of "rekindling [the] past magic" behind Stefani and Williams' 2005 collaboration "Hollaback Girl".[10] Marc Hogan of Wondering Sound was critical of the song's lyrics, saying "a look at Stefani’s prior discography might suggest there’s not much fuel left for this particular theme", and compared them to her previous work with No Doubt on the song "Start the Fire" from the 2001 album Rock Steady.[20]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Stefani during the music video, where she is shown sitting atop a cloud emoji.[21]

The music video was released on December 1, 2014 on Stefani's official YouTube account.[14] The video was produced by Stefani's long-time collaborator, Sophie Muller.[22] At the beginning of the video, Stefani is shown floating on a cloud over an animated cityscape. For the video's remainder, Stefani parties in an underground nightclub with friends while groups of animated emoticons and animated figures flash on the screen.[21] During the song's bridge before the last chorus, Stefani visually acts out the song's lyrics with the help of several emoticons.[14] Scott Lapatine of Stereogum described the video's storyline as "a cartoon universe and an underground club with pop-up video-style graphics flying by"; Lapatine further stated that the video also includes glimpses of "a conspicuous workstation that prints pizza and a Chrysler Fiat 500L".[23]

Reception[edit]

The video received predominantly positive reviews from critics. Eliza Berman of Time magazine gave the video a positive review, saying "it comes to life in the colorful blend of animation and reality". Berman described the video's feminist message as "consist[ed] of bringing together a bunch of attractive dancers dressed in L.A.M.B., burning down the club with confidence".[24] Erin Strecker from Billboard compared the music video to the video for "Baby Don't Lie", stating "Stefani dons black and white in an animated, colorful world".[25]

Live performances[edit]

Stefani and Williams performed the song live on the December 1, 2014 episode of The Voice.[4] The performance opened with Stefani floating down to the stage on a huge, animated cloud head and dressed in a powder-blue, cloud-decorated jumpsuit. Williams also joined her on the stage, wearing a dark blue Adidas tracksuit.[26] Stefani then performed "Spark the Fire" on New Year's Eve with Carson Daly on December 31, 2014.[27] On February 2, 2015, Stefani performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, along with a medley of her previous singles "Rich Girl", "What You Waiting For?", and "The Sweet Escape".[28]

Usage in media[edit]

In 2014, "Spark the Fire" was used in the advertising of the Fiat's Gran Finale Italy.[29] It is featuring in the second season trailer for "Scream Queens", We're Back, Idiot Hookers.[30]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2014–15) Peak
position
Russia Airplay (Tophit)[31] 326
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[32] 29
US Pop Digital Songs (Billboard)[33] 38

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
France[34] December 1, 2014 Digital download Polydor
Italy[35] Universal
Spain[36]
United States[37]
Germany[38] January 23, 2015 Universal

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (April 13, 2014). "Gwen Stefani's Coachella Cameo Hints At Solo Return?". Billboard. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  2. ^ Bychawski, Adam (September 7, 2012). "No Doubt's Gwen Stefani: 'I never want to make another solo album'". NME. Time Inc. UK. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ Rettig, James (23 November 2014). "Gwen Stefani – 'Spark the Fire'". Stereogum. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b McRady, Rachel (6 May 2014). "Gwen Stefani Sings "Hollaback Girl" With Pharrell Williams on The Voice: Watch Here!". Us Magazine. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Garibaldi, Christina (September 8, 2014). "Gwen Stefani Back In The Studio With Pharrell And She's 'Killing It'". MTV News. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ Azzopardi, Chris. "MUSIC Gwen Stefani: Underneath it all". Windy City Media Group. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "iTunes (U.S.) - Music - Gwen Stefani - Spark the Fire - Single". iTunes (U.S.). December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c Berman, Eliza (24 November 2014). "Listen to Gwen Stefani's New Pharrell-Produced Single 'Spark the Fire'". Time. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Doyle, Patrick (December 4, 2014). "How Gwen Stefani Discovered Emojis and Jump-Started Her Career". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Villa, Lucas (December 2, 2014). "Gwen Stefani premieres emoji-filled music video for 'Spark the Fire'". AXS. 
  11. ^ Frydenlund, Zach (November 24, 2014). "Watch Gwen Stefani's "Spark the Fire" Video (Prod. by Pharrell)". Complex. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Brown, August (2 December 2014). "Gwen Stefani releases single, video for 'Spark the Fire'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  13. ^ Sterling, Scott T. (4 December 2014). "Pharrell Talks His Feminist View of Gwen Stefani's 'Spark the Fire,' Hillary Clinton for President". Radio.com. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c "Video: Gwen Stefani F/ Pharrell Williams – 'Spark The Fire'". Rap-Up. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  15. ^ Miller, Lindsay (7 December 2014). "How Pharrell Williams Convinced Gwen Stefani to Go Solo Again'". PopSugar. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  16. ^ Manders, Hayden. "Why Gwen Stefani Wants You To "Spark The Fire" & Not Kill The Vibe". Refinery29. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Miller, Jordan. "OMG OMG GWEN STEFANI'S BACK WITH "SPARK THE FIRE"". BreatheHeavy. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  18. ^ Miller, Jordan. "Gwen Stefani – "This Is What The Truth Feels Like" First Listen Review". BreatheHeavy. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  19. ^ Campi, Alexa. "Single Review: Gwen Stefani, "Spark the Fire"". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  20. ^ Hogan, Marc. "Gwen Stefani Reunites with Pharrell on "Spark the Fire"". Wondering Sound. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Blistein, Joy. "Watch Gwen Stefani Burn Up Wildly Animated 'Spark the Fire' Video". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  22. ^ Gottlieb, Steven (December 2, 2014). "Gwen Stefani f/ Pharrell Williams "Spark The Fire" (Sophie Muller, dir.)". VideoStatic. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  23. ^ Lapatine, Scott (1 December 2014). "Gwen Stefani – "Spark The Fire" Video (Feat. Pharrell)". Stereogum. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  24. ^ Berman, Eliza (2 December 2014). "Watch the Trippy Video for Gwen Stefani's 'Spark the Fire'". Time. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  25. ^ Strecker, Erin (2 December 2014). "Gwen Stefani & Pharrell's 'Spark the Fire' Video Is an Emoji Explosion". Billboard. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  26. ^ Bobb, Maurice (1 December 2014). "Gwen Stefani And Pharrell Light Up The Stage With 'Spark The Fire' Performance". MTV News. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  27. ^ Shaffer, Jordyn. "Gwen Stefani & Pharrell Williams Sing 'Spark The Fire' On NYE". Hollywood Life. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  28. ^ Stern, Bradley. "Gwen Stefani Performs Medley Of Hits On 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon': Watch". Idolator. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  29. ^ "Música do Comercial Fiat Gran Finale 2014". Radiorama. November 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "'Scream Queens' Promo: The Chanels Turn Hospital Hallway Into Their Runway — Watch". hollywoodlife. July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  31. ^ "Chart Search". Tophit for Gwen Stefani. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  32. ^ "Gwen Stefani – Chart history" Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs for Gwen Stefani. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  33. ^ "Chart Search". Billboard Pop Digital Songs for Gwen Stefani. Retrieved March 31, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Spark The Fire". Amazon France. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  35. ^ "Spark The Fire". Amazon Italy. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  36. ^ "Spark The Fire". Amazon Spain. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  37. ^ "Spark The Fire". Amazon United States. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  38. ^ "Spark The Fire". Amazon Germany. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 

External links[edit]