10 years is a very long time in terms of the period between album releases. No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani made a bid for solo stardom back in 2004 with her debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. The released was a huge hit selling over 7 million copies worldwide and firmly establishing Stefani as a solo force to be reckoned with. Second solo album The Sweet Escape quickly followed in 2006 and while the set was still a commercial success, it didn’t come close to topping the sales of its predecessor. In 2012 Stefani reunited with No Doubt to release new studio album Push and Shove, which was a commercial failure when compared to the band’s previous albums.
In 2014 Stefani joined the panel of The Voice US and she made her first tentative steps back into the solo spotlight releasing singles Baby Don’t Lie and Spark the Fire. Neither song made an impact on the charts and in 2015 Stefani enjoyed a moderate hit with the personal ballad Used To Love You, a song that explored the singer’s recent divorce. That single was followed by the infectious Make Me Like You, an uptempo celebration of unexpectedly falling in love again based on her relationship with fellow The Voice US judge Blake Shelton. Now Stefani has finally unleashed her third solo album This Is What The Truth Feels Like.
Given the delays and setbacks that Stefani experienced when recording what eventually became This Is What The Truth Feels Like, you’d expect the record to be a bit of a mess but surprisingly it’s arguably her most cohesive to date. Far more consistent in style and tone than The Sweet Escape, and capturing much of the magic from Love. Angel. Music. Baby. the record is a collection of mostly personal pop tracks. The set opens with Misery, a mid-tempo hand-clap driven that brings Charli XCX to mind, and it takes a few listens to get into the groove of.
After the opening track the album really gets started with Stefani digging deep into her personal life for inspiration. You’re My Favourite features sparse instrumentation as Stefani explores the hip-hop influences that infused much of her early solo work, and Where Would I Be pays homage to the ska/reggae beats of her work with No Doubt. Make Me Like You, the album’s first UK single, is an early highlight that borrows a melody from the Cardigans classic Love Fool for a bouncy, glorious few minutes of pure unadulterated pop.
Elsewhere on the record Stefani’s pain is laid bare on the ballad Used To Love You, she uses hushed vocals on the dreamy Send Me a Picture, and embraces her inner feisty hip-hop chick on the attitude-filled Naughty.
The highlight on the record for me is Truth, the song where the album title is taken from. The verses see Stefani packing in a lot of lyrics as she talks about finding love again after a dark time. The chorus is optimistic, celebratory and hopeful, and it’s one of the best songs that Stefani has recorded in her long and colourful history.
The album comes to a close with the euphoric pop of Rare. It’s another moment on the album that may take a few listens to fully appreciate it but once you get to grips with the song, you realise it’s a beautiful and fitting end to the record.
This Is What The Truth Feels Like could be Stefani’s best solo record to date. Despite my worry after the two 2014 singles, Stefani has found her groove and it seems that getting personal was the key. Her relationship with Shelton has definitely inspired some fantastic songs and this record deserves to take her back to the highs of her early solo success. This Is What The Truth Feels Like is proper, pure grown-up pop music that everyone can enjoy.
Watch the video for Make Me Like You below:
Track Listing: 1. Misery 2. You’re My Favorite 3. Where Would I Be? 4. Make Me Like You 5. Truth 6. Used To Love You 7. Send Me A Picture 8. Red Flag 9. Asking 4 It (feat. Fetty Wap) 10. Naughty 11. Me Without You 12. Rare Record Company: Polydor Release Date: Friday 18th March 2016
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