The True Meaning Behind Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl'

Whether it's the cheer-like chorus of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" or the repeating refrain of her spelling out "B-A-N-A-N-A-S," the singer's 2005 banger wormed its way into our ears and has stayed there ever since.  As MTV reported in 2006, a lot of pressure surrounded Stefani in creating the song with collaborator Pharrell Williams — as it would be one of the singles off her first solo record independent of her band No Doubt. Per the outlet, the talented duo, after a long night of songwriting, found the song's defiant theme fitting to announce Stefani's emergence as a solo artist. As Gwen told MTV, "It's a song that says, you know, you don't have to answer back. To me, it is the freshest attitude song I've heard in so long."

Telling MTV that she and Williams ensured "Hollaback Girl" would at least be a "guilty pleasure" for people who "try not to like it," Stefani also told Brut that she always started live shows with the iconic bop, thanks to its electrifying energy and proclamation of "Let me explain something to you. We're going to start here and the show is never going to get below this level." (The expletive-dropping lyrics certainly help loosen her crowd up, according to Stefani.) For such a unifying and upbeat track, however, "Hollaback Girl" has a real-life backstory sparked by a negative comment. Keep reading to see what inspired one of Stefani's greatest hits.

Naomi Campbell inspired Pharrell Williams to coin 'Hollaback Girl'

We suppose the most pertinent question here is... what is a "Hollaback Girl"? As its chant-like chorus goes, "A few times I've been around that track / So it's not just gonna happen like that / 'Cause I ain't no hollaback girl." Gwen Stefani reminisced on the song to Brut in January, explaining the definition in relation to her song's larger message of rising above negative gossipmongers. "I would describe the term 'hollaback girl' as somebody who is gonna be going back at somebody who is coming at them," Stefani said. "The way that I use it, like, I wouldn't be that person. I'm above that kind of thing."

As Stefani's co-writer, Pharrell Williams, told supermodel supreme Naomi Campbell on her YouTube chat show "No Filter," he was the one who coined the term after eavesdropping on Campbell herself. "That chorus came from a conversation where you were telling somebody you ain't no 'Holla Back' girl because of a song we had at the time with Fabolous called 'Holla Back,'" Williams revealed. "Somebody was trying to speak to you or whatever, and you were like, 'I'm sorry, I have a name. I ain't no 'Holla Back' girl,' and I thought that was so amazing and it ended up becoming the chorus to the song." 

Clearly, Campbell isn't the clapback track's target — but who is?

'Hollaback Girl' is a direct holla back to Courtney Love

Was Courtney Love talking s*** and didn't think that Gwen Stefani would hear it? 

In a 2004 interview with Seventeen magazine, Love opined, "Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker shed." It seems that Stefani took Love's jab to heart — and the concept behind "Hollaback Girl" blossomed. 

Without naming names, Stefani elaborated to Brut about the song's use of cheer-like chants and the accompanying music video's abundance of cheerleader uniforms. "I started hearing rumors about me. 'She's just like a cheerleader,'" Stefani recalled, pointing out the irony behind Love's insult. "Because I kind of always wanted to be a cheerleader, and I really liked the costumes. ... I kind of threw that back in their face when they called me it... it was like, 'Okay, yeah, I am. Yeah I am a cheerleader. You watch me cheer myself on and get everybody to cheer for me.'" As has never been Stefani's style, even a "diss track" from the pop icon rose took the high road. "It was my way of kind of answering back... in, I feel like, a cool way where I just used my own gift," she summarized.