Everyone at Beacon Street Online would like to congratulate Gwen on the 10th anniversary of her second solo album The Sweet Escape, which was released on this day in 2006!
The Sweet Escape spawned several singles including “Wind It Up”, “The Sweet Escape”, “Early Winter”, “4 In The Morning” and “Now That You Got It”, which was treated to a notable remix with Damian Marley. The album also features one of her best ballads to date in “Wonderful Life” (which was used throughout her debut L fragrance campaign), the addictive track “Yummy”, and an underrated homage to her hometown in “Orange County Girl”.
Before releasing The Sweet Escape, Gwen said that she had planned on returning to work with No Doubt after releasing her debut solo smash Love.Angel.Music.Baby. in 2004, and was only intending on releasing an EP of some sorts featuring leftover tracks, or possibly included on an upcoming DVD planned for the following year. Collaborator Pharrell Williams convinced Gwen to return to the studio again with no intentions of releasing a new record and met together in July 2005 in Miami, Florida.
The pair hit it off again in the studio and went on to write several tracks that made the upcoming album including “Orange County Girl”, “Breakin’ Up”, “Yummy”, “U Started It”, “Wind It Up” and “Candyland”, a still unreleased track that Gwen first teased fans with during her debut L.A.M.B. fashion show held during NYFW in September 2005. Gwen shared in an interview that only two tracks left over from the Love.Angel.Music.Baby. sessions ended up making The Sweet Escape. She then felt inspired to release another album on her own since she was so close to having enough tracks but found herself pregnant for the first time later in the year. The project was then put on hold for the time being with the working title of Candyland.
Gwen shared that after becoming pregnant, she focused more on herself rather than music and found herself uninspired after taking a break for so long. She also found herself over the whole “80s dance record” phase that she was in during her first album’s ride. “I went into the studio and tried to make songs that I thought were really good and this is what the record turned out. So it’s kind of very modern. Most of the record I wrote in the last couple months.” Gwen says that she really pushed herself to write catchy songs for her last album and started to write from a more honest and natural place for The Sweet Escape on tracks like “Early Winter” and “Wonderful Life.” She said that she never really had a plan for the album.
After wrapping up the Harajuku Lovers Live tour, Gwen collaborated with Tony on a couple of tracks for the album including “4 In The Morning”. She rediscovered the song that they had previously worked on the melody for and pushed for them to work together to finish the song. Gwen admits to listening and taking inspiration from Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” for the track. “I definitely wanted a nice ballad on the record.”
For the album’s artwork, Gwen took inspiration and worked closely with photographer Jill Greenburg. The direction and theme came from her previous and controversial End Times exhibit which Gwen thought of as beautiful. She also worked closely with her styling team including Andrea Lieberman and Danilo and she can be seen in dramatic blunt blond wigs and over-sized glasses.
Though receiving mixed reviews from critics, The Sweet Escape debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart selling more than 243,000 copies in it’s first week. The album’s first single “Wind It Up” rose on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to the #6 spot and was complimented by multiple live televised performances and a memorable music video with visuals borrowed from The Sound of Music.
The album’s second and most successful single, “The Sweet Escape”, was released shortly after the album on December 19 which skyrocketed to the #1 spot on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. With help from Akon, the album’s title track was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 50th Grammy Awards and hit the top 10 in most charts around the world. “The Sweet Escape” continues to be a show highlight and has since both opened and closed out her last two tours. Gwen also performed her hit single alongside No Doubt during a special charity performance in 2011.
Gwen then released “4 In The Morning”, one of her most cherished ballads from The Sweet Escape in May 2007. Though it failed to have any chart impact, fans and critics adored the song which highlighted Gwen’s soothing vocals and songwriting. The video also followed gorgeous Gwen around in a lush residence (while donning and wearing some of our favorite L.A.M.B. pieces) with her singing into the camera while in a steamy bathtub and silky sheets. It was a subtle but special video that ranks among her best.
For the fourth single “Now That You Got It”, Gwen enlisted Damian Marley for an updated version of the track which was released in August 2007. The single never charted domestically but was promoted overseas on UK television. “Now That You Got It” was infused and given a reggae treatment on tour which was nice for fans to hear and jam out to.
Gwen then released her fifth and final single “Early Winter” in January 2008 and notably spent fourteen weeks on the German charts. Unfortunately the single was only released and promoted overseas and was co-written with Tim Rice-Oxley. “Early Winter” is absolutely stunning and was accompanied by a breathtaking video which was shot in Budapest, Milan, and Prague while Gwen was on the European-leg of her Sweet Escape world tour. Fans voted “Early Winter” as their favorite track from the album in a poll we hosted in 2013.
The Sweet Escape allowed Gwen to hit the road for a successful world tour which had her visiting countries for the first time since No Doubt’s Rock Steady tour in 2002. The tour included a full elaborate stage set and multiple costume changes throughout. Gwen performed the majority of the album on tour excluding only “Fluorescent” and “U Started It” only after a handful of performances early on. After the tour wrapped up in late 2007, Gwen found herself pregnant again with her second son, Zuma.
Like her previous solo album, Gwen seemed to be at the top of her game creatively with her fashion projects during The Sweet Escape era. We saw the launch of many successful and sought-after collections from L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers which included new fragrances and partnerships.
Gwen continues to pay homage to her second solo album by continuing to perform “The Sweet Escape” during unique occasions (including most recently at The White House) and while on tour. The Sweet Escape still holds up over the years and holds a special place with fans all around the world.
In honor of The Sweet Escape‘s anniversary, we’re curious which track stands out as your favorite after all these years. Thanks for voting!
As a bonus, check out a remix of the unreleased track “Candyland” that was sent in to us a few years back by Whoopido to share. The audio comes from the clip that Gwen had used during her debut L.A.M.B. fashion show in September 2005.