Gwen Stefani The Sweet Escape (Polydor) The Hollaback girl returns with another quirky dance/pop/rap collection to follow her excellent solo debut L.A.M.B., sticking to the same gimmicks and mostly the same production collaborators. But while the first outing had an element of surprise that made you sit up and listen to the former No Doubt singer's dramatic change in direction, this time around it's a little more predictable. Sure, there are some catchy songs, including the Euro-pop sounding Early Winter, The Sweet Escape and 4 in the Morning, and decent raps, such as Breakin' Up, but too much of the album is padded with fodder. Thankfully, she continues to experiment with innovative touches, with a manic yodelling on opener Wind it Up (though whether the pop world needs to sample the Sound of Music is a moot point) and the Japanese influence that dominated the debut is in evidence again on Breakin' Up. The Sweet Escape is an enjoyable enough romp, but one can't help feeling that for her good mates with all the street cred - Pharrell Williams, Nellee Hooper, Tim Rice-Oakley, Neptunes and former bandmade Tony Kanal all lend a hand - she's in danger of becoming the next Cyndi Lauper rather than a Madonna or hip-hop queen. Having recently become a mum - a subject she sings about in Yummy - Stefani is still achingly hip. But it seems she can't decide whether now that she's left ska pop behind, if she wants to be a rapper or a bubblegum pop star. Maybe it's time to decide.