Don't speak, she knows what you're thinking: If Gwen Stefani is currently recording her first solo album, that means No Doubt is no more, right? ''We're taking a break,'' says Stefani, sighing patiently. ''But we are definitely not breaking up.'' Fact is, after 17 years of mixing punk, ska, and pop, Stefani is now more creatively attuned to Footloose than Fishbone. ''I wanted to make an '80s dance record,'' she says. ''I wanted fake drumbeats, a Salt 'N' Pepa kind of sound. I couldn't do that with No Doubt.''
The result, tentatively titled What You Waiting For?, is one of 2004's most anticipated CDs. So far, Stefani has recorded ''a bunch of stuff'' with R&B producer Dallas Austin, Neptune Pharrell Williams (see N.E.R.D. entry on page 66), and Pink collaborator Linda Perry. ''She actually put me in a headlock at the Grammys and was like, 'We have to do something together!''' says Stefani.
It might take similar cajoling to get the busy singer focused. What with a new clothing line (called Lamb), a movie role (as Jean Harlow in Martin Scorsese's upcoming The Aviator), and a marriage (to Bush's Gavin Rossdale), Stefani hasn't found a whole lot of time to write new tunes. ''I have this fantasy that my album will be out this summer,'' she says with a laugh. ''Put that out there, and maybe it will force me to make it happen.'' Okay, the album's out this summer. Now, what you waiting for? (summer -- maybe)