On Dec. 29, 2001, No Doubt’s Rock Steady, the band’s fifth (and last) studio album, debuted on The Billboard 200 at #9.
It had been six years since Tragic Kingdom (their third LP) had given No Doubt international acclaim with their distinct brand of new wave/ska music. By 2001, vocalist Gwen Stefani was making guest appearances on other artists’ records (The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Moby and Eve) and getting a taste of life for a solo artist.
When the group decided to record again, they delved deeper into their explorations of dance hall reggae and synthpop, working with a variety of songwriters and producers and recording in the US, Britain and Jamaica. Collaborators included Prince, Nellie Hooper, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), The Neptunes, and Ric Ocasek (The Cars).
Overseeing the LP’s final mix was Mark “Spike” Stent, the British producer and audio engineer who mixed the Spice Girls’ hit singles.
Although Rock Steady would go no higher than #9 on the album charts, it did produce four singles (“Hey Baby,” “Hella Good,” “Underneath It All” and “Running”).
Stefani was quoted as saying she enjoyed working with Ocasek and wished the band could have spent more time in the studio with him. One of two songs that Ocasek produced was “Platinum Blonde Life.”