An interesting change of direction
Gwen Stefani has always been one of our cooler and kookier pop stars. Her strange fashions, and love for sampling musicals to make quirky but credible hits have always helped her to stand out from the crowd. She is a truly unique artist in her own right. Her long career as front woman of No Doubt has been filled with amazing moments, but it’s her solo material that has always mixed things up and shown what a versatile artist she is. Those big ska sounds she plays with her band are exchanged for a more pop/ R&B sound of her solo tracks. The two strings to her career without doubt give fans the chance to see two completely different sides to her. Last year she released her first brand new track since 2006’s ‘The Sweet Escape’. ‘Used To Love You’ is a big emotional track. She lays her emotions out for us to see in a way she hasn’t done so since ‘Cool’ from her debut ‘Love, Angel, Music, Baby’. It’s not the kind of song she has previously released to start a new album campaign with, suggesting that a change in direction was on the cards.
‘This Is What The Truth Feels Like’ is Gwen Stefani’s third solo offering. First impressions; It seems to be a far less fun and energetic album that its predecessors. Tracks from previous albums like ‘What You Waiting For?’ and ‘Wind It Up’. bordered on insanity. You get the impression that had any other artist released them, they wouldn’t have been able to get away with them in quite a much style. They could only be released by Stefani. That shit really was bananas. There’s nothing that has quite that same amount on energy on this album, which seems a shame. That’s always been her thing. But despite the fact that she doesn’t appear to have aged a day in the last twenty years, she is now in her mid-forties (shocking). Could it be that the California girl is growing up, and releasing an album that reflects that? Lyrically it seems to reflect everything that’s gone on in her private life in the time between her last album ‘The Sweet Escape’ and now. It has been ten years, so that’s a lot of ground to cover. She has broken up from with husband, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, and is now with American country singer Blake Shelton. The songs seem to span the end of her marriage, to the honeymoon period of her current relationship. Songs about hurt and betrayal are mixed in to songs of love and mending.
Album number three isn’t as instant as her previous work. But here’s the good news: it is a grower. First track ‘Misery’ isn’t as ballsy as you you expect for the opener of her first solo album in a decade, but it does fit perfectly with the theme of the first part of the album: that’s where all the heartbreak seems to be. There are a few false starts with the chilled out ‘You’re My Favourite’ and the reggae infused ‘Where Would I Be?’ It’s only on recent disco-tinged single ‘Make Me Like You’ that things seem to get moving. The album title seems to be a theme throughout. Constant mentions of the truth, telling the truth, not being used to the truth, etc. are constant reference points, leading us to only speculate what has been going on in her life over the past few years. Stefani does woman scorned in a way Alanis Morissette would be proud of. It’s a new side to the usually upbeat singer, and it does take some getting used to. ‘Truth’ is the closest thing to a title track, and the best example
The second half of the album is where she gets down and dirty, with more hip-hop and R&B flavoured songs. It all kicks off at ‘Red Flag’, a sexy, brilliantly produced killer of a track; spitting bars in the same way that made us fall in love with ‘Hollaback Girl’. Followed up by ‘Asking 4 It’, hip-hop’s man of the moment sounds great on this collaboration. It does have a sound of his recent anthem ‘Trap Queen’. But ‘Trap Queen’ was a huge track, and its flavour sounds great. ‘Rocket Ship’ is stashed away on the deluxe version of the album, but makes it worth getting. It’s always worth listening to Ms. Stefani’s albums all the way through, as often there are some gems hidden away at the end.
‘This Is What The truth Feels Like’ has a lot of the traits that made us love her in the first place. She just seems to have grown up. This is a much more mature collection of songs than she’s ever released before. On the first few listens it doesn’t seem to stand up against her past work. But after a few listens it did start to grab me, and songs that I previously hadn’t even noticed seemed to stand out. Maybe the sign of a more enduring album. It has certainly made me want to listen to and get to know it better. Watch this space, it could after a few more plays be on a level with her previous two albums. If not, well, Gwen Stefani’s second best is better than many artists best.