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As she prepares to release her second solo CD, new mom Gwen Stefani talks about the things that have influenced her music, her style -- and her yodeling

MICHELLE GAME Stefani says her latest stylistic muse is Pfeiffer's drug-addled bombshell from Scarface
Image credit: Gwen Stefani Photograph by James Dimmock
MICHELLE GAME Stefani says her latest stylistic muse is Pfeiffer's drug-addled bombshell from Scarface

These are a few of Gwen Stefani's favorite things: The Sound of Music, The Sound of Music, and, oh yes, The Sound of Music. ''I'm like a Trekkie, but for The Sound of Music,'' says the No Doubt frontwoman and solo superstar. ''The first time I ever went on stage, at a high school talent show, the dress that I wore was the dress that Maria wears when she sings 'I Have Confidence.' The drop-waist tweed dress. I had that dress. I made it.''

More than two decades on, the 37-year-old's enthusiasm for the classic Julie Andrews musical remains undimmed. This morning, perched on a bench in the basement of the Cuckoo nightclub in London, where her Entertainment Weekly cover shoot is to take place, Stefani is thrilled to sing a few lines from ''I Have Confidence'' should anyone request it (or even if they don't). Further proof of her fanaticism: Stefani's new single, ''Wind It Up,'' finds the singer mimicking Andrews' yodel from the film's ''The Lonely Goatherd'' — albeit over a rhythm track provided by Pharrell Williams' production team, the Neptunes.

''I was threatening for a while to put The Sound of Music to a beat,'' Stefani says. ''When I heard [''Wind It Up''] for the first time, I was in tears. I was, like, That is the craziest s--- I've ever heard! It's bizarre how that movie has followed my life.'' Indeed, their plots are similar: Naive and chatty but well-meaning young Catholic girl — who makes her own clothes! — goes out into the big wide world, where she survives assorted adventures and meets the man of her dreams. Of course, in Stefani's case, the ''assorted adventures'' didn't involve escaping from Nazis but selling 26 million albums worldwide with a globe-trotting ska-pop band, then 7 million more with her 2004 solo debut, Love.Angel.Music.Baby. And the ''man of her dreams'' is a British rocker (Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, 39, whom Stefani married in September 2002), not an Austrian naval captain. But both stories do have a happy ending, as is evidenced in Stefani's case by the 6-month-old bundle of joy named Kingston James McGregor Rossdale, right now nestled in a Bugaboo across the room from his mommy.

All of which raises the question: Why does the cover of her new CD, The Sweet Escape, find her dressed not as the heroine von Trapp, but in the style of Michelle Pfeiffer's drugged-out gangster's moll, Elvira, from Brian De Palma's blood-drenched 1983 classic, Scarface?

The answer to this conundrum is connected to the clean-living, gym-frequenting, new-mommying Stefani's obvious delight in being ever-so-slightly naughty. (She repeatedly uses the phrase ''coke whore'' to describe her newfound fashion muse — and does so with a mischievous smirk.) But, more specifically, the idea came to the singer early last year while shooting the video for her single ''Cool'' in Lake Como, Italy. Also on hand: Tony Kanal, 36 — No Doubt's bassist and, many moons previously, a teenage Gwen Renee Stefani's first boyfriend — and Kanal's current steady, Erin Lokitch. ''She had on this long, peach, polyester dress,'' Stefani recalls. ''I was looking at her silhouette going, 'You look so hot.' It was probably a late-'70s dress, and I started thinking about Michelle Pfeiffer and how amazingly styled she was [in Scarface].''

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