We live in a very different time now than back when Gwen Stefani released her widely successful album Love.Angel.Music.Baby because at the time most thought she was paying homage to the eclectic fashion district in Tokyo, Japan. But not everyone was on board with Stefani's love for Harajuku, accusing her of cultural appropriation by using Japanese fashion and culture to sell records. It's not necessarily a new conversation, and up until now, Stefani has remained tight-lipped to refute the allegations.
Cultural appropriation is the practice of one culture adopting certain elements of another culture, but not in a way of praise. As Wikipedia explains;
According to critics of the practice, cultural appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or equal cultural exchange in that this appropriation is a form of colonialism: cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture
Stefani's 2004 release offered many classic tunes such as the frenetic, Neptunes produced 'Hollaback Girl', the melodic break-up song 'Cool' and somewhat of an update to the classic club banger 'Rich Girl', which some would also agree fits into the category of cultural appropriation as well. However, according to Showbiz Cheatsheet, Stefani doesn't view her actions as any type of appropriation. As a matter of fact, in her explanation she truly wanted to pay her respects to a culture she fell in love with.
“When it first came out, I think people understood that it was an artistic and literal bow down to a culture that I was a superfan of,” she told Billboard. “This album was like a dream. I went in thinking I’m going to make something that could never be possible — me doing a dance record — come true.”
Another fact pertaining to the "L.A.M.B" album is the four Japanese dancers referred to as the Harajuku Girls were actually named Love, Angel, Music and Baby. This only further adds fuel to the appropriation claims.
However, Stefani has an explanation for that as well.
“I wanted to write a song that talked about my love for Harajuku,” she explained. “When you’re from Anaheim and never traveled outside of your city until you’re 21 years old, it was really crazy to go to Japan. My dad went there a lot because he worked with Yamaha motorcycles, so I had a fascination from a young age.”
Considering she still uses the L.A.M.B branding to this day it doesn't appear that her love for Japanese culture is going away any time soon.