What you Waiting For?

Nikki Nita Ramirez

“What an amazing time, what a family. How did the years go by? And, now it’s only me”

Being a 90s child, I would indulge in watching music videos at home on MTV. Yet, the new millennium brought the genre (and consequently) the world moving into internet mobility at rapid speed. As the final generation that remembers music videos being played on TV, reminiscing on how music videos integrated into my life leaves me nostalgic for those times again. Dozens of TV channels were just dedicated to music videos based on time period and genre. I could watch them for hours, and be engulfed in the trance of the music, the choreography, and most of all the makeup and fashion. This essay will explore the most notable music video of my childhood “What You Waiting For?” By Gwen Stefani. Beyond her current controversies, Stefani did bring the Harajuku influence to the States, and ultimately made it digestible to a western audience. Stefani blended not only this substrate of style, she also added Guatemalan, Mexican, and Jamaican influences into her clothing and persona. From my personal experience, it was the first time for me that I encountered a true melting pot of cultures. For some it is seen as appropriation, but for me at only 10 at the time, I was enamoured by styles very far from what I knew and had seen around me and influenced so much of my upbringing because of it. Through this, subsequently, the cultural influences of the East paved the way for a new wave of globalisation in an already rich diverse city that is my home, New York.

What You Waiting For?

It’s autumn 2005 - New York City - the iPod Video just dropped, and that is all everyone in my 5th grade class can talk about. Imagine an iPod where you can watch music videos where you want, whenever you want. No more switching on MTV in the hopes of that song you got  stuck in your head plays first. You have the freedom to buy at the low price of $1.99 (thank you capitalism) a music video from iTunes, download onto your iPod, and watch on the back of the school bus going home. What a time to be alive!

I begged and pleaded with my mother that I just had to have it for Christmas. And with sheer will, copious chores, and a report card of straight As - I finally saved and bought one. I proudly walked into the only Apple store (the only store at the time in New York City was in Soho) and walked out with my lovely prized possession, along with a $20 iTunes Gift Card.

The first music video I bought was “What You Waiting for?” by Gwen Stefani. At the time I was 10, so I genuinely had no idea what the lyrics meant. All I knew was that I loved the song, and the video was a short film in my eyes. Directed by Francis Lawrence, the video opens with a scene of Stefani landing in LAX, tired and missed calls from her label manager. The writer’s block increases, so Stefani visits a zen program to break her out of her rut.

The music video tells the story of Stefani’s fears of going solo in her career after leaving No Doubt. In interviews, Stefani talks about how she felt her foot was stuck in between two doors - her past and her present - seemingly to the public eye, a bright solo career. The video blends the story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to create a mesmerising imagery and Stefani playing multiple characters in Lewis Caroll’s novels. The lyrics also echo her anxieties of having a baby. Gwen was 36 at the time, and as we all know thanks to societal norms and pressures, as well as the medical field, being above 35 and having a baby is called a geriatric pregnancy. So in essence, the video as well as the song were raw, real and ordinary issues that coincidentally, made it an absolute banger.

Take a chance you stupid h**

What I believe Stefani nailed on the head is blending different cultures together. Present-day critics would call her past a cultural appropriation. Yet, I argue that her having such a big platform at the time, allowing other cultural influences to be brought to light, opened eyes to younger audiences like myself. I became enamoured with Japanese culture, saw my own Latin roots given another avenue to shine, and truly loved the openness and fluidity Stefani had in it all.

Why can’t we put our political correctness aside for one second? I would love to see more blending of cultures - appreciating their beauty and highlighting them. Isn't that the beauty we all love when we travel? We yearn to learn from other cultures, learn from their stories, and learn that deep down we are much more similar than what we actually thought.

Now looking back, and listening to “What You Waiting For” again and again for this essay, I realised that it was one of the few very popular songs that didn’t include a love story, a heartbreak, or degrading of women. It is authentic to the adult experience. Even for me, as I am finishing my Masters Degree - tick tock tick tock - life keeps moving, and we all are just in the pursuit of happiness - whatever your happiness may be.

I say all of this to offer a moment of contemplation to you, the reader - what is it that you want out of this world, as our time is ever fleeting? How do you ground yourself in the present moment? In an ever changing world globalisation is becoming more expansive - rather than staying static in your thoughts -begin to question them. Become curious with what you see and hear around you. What you waiting for?