From music, to fashion, to TV Gwen Stefani has had a life that most women could only dream of. In countless interviews, even she is caught in her own disbelief of her success: “I can’t believe this is my life,” she’d say. But despite her success in business and music with more than 30 million albums sold worldwide, Stefani’s “biggest accomplishment,” as told to Marie Claire in 2012, was her marriage.
Gwen and her millions of adoring fans (including this one!) could probably have never predicted that four years later we’d be listening to her third solo album, largely consumed by songs inspired by her divorce from Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale.
“It was rock bottom. I was so embarrassed. I thought, ‘I have to turn this into something, I can’t go down like this,'” said Gwen Stefani in a recent interview with CBS Sunday Morning this week. “If I can turn this into music, then everything will be OK.
The 12 songs written and recorded after her divorce became Stefani’s first solo album in 10 years: This Is What the Truth Feels Like (Interscope) was released on Friday. Her most personal album to date, the album tells her story in 42 minutes of both a love lost and love reborn.
This Is What The Truth Feels Like starts with its newest single and one of my favorite tracks, “Misery.” It’s pure pop, flirty and explosive, and an incredibly optimistic song choice to kick off the rest of the album. And like much of the album, the song tackles grief and joy simultaneously: “You’re like drugs to me/I’m so into you totally/Put me out of my misery/Hurry up and come save me/Enough of this suffering.” (Stefani began dating The Voice co-star Blake Shelton in the fall of 2015).
Truthfully, the most inspired thing about the album is the subject matter, echoed in the lyrics of the diary she shares throughout the record. Stefani sings of carelessly ignoring the warning signs of her lover straying (“Red Flag”), a love ending (“Used To Love You”), resisting and ultimately giving into a new love (“Make Me Like You”), insecurity about starting a new relationship (“Asking 4 It”), and ultimately declaring her victory over heartbreak (“Me Without You”).
Musically, This Is What the Truth Feels Like feels a little less inspired. It is in every sense of the word a pop album, but not the kind you’d likely find yourself busting a move to on the dance floor or constantly hearing on the radio. But according to Stefani, writing and recording a hit record was not her intention with this solo album. Instead, her objective was to simply share her truth and hope that her fans can find comfort in that.
Comfort, too, is a good way of describing the zone that these songs are in for an artist as innovative as Gwen Stefani. Nevertheless, a few definitely stand out. “Where Would I Be” somehow successfully combines Ace of Base-era keyboards, 60s harmonies à la the Ronettes, and a throwback to Gwen’s own 2006 track, “Hollaback Girl.” It’s super girly and catchy, and I love it.
Fans who love Stefani’s work with No Doubt over her solo albums may find themselves drawn to one of the more alienated tracks on the album, “Naughty.” Hinting to melodies familiar of the band’s first few albums, Stefani voices her frustrations in a way that’s more riot girl than “Rich Girl,” even throwing in another 90s influence, Radiohead: “You’re sliding, you slide on a slippery slope/Karma police, I’m on patrol/Got my gun loaded, I’m ready to go/I’m dope.”
In addition to her classic beauty and gift of voice, one of the most likable things about Gwen Stefani is her relatability. She’s an artist in the most authentic sense of the word and deeply personal with whatever she creates, unafraid of sharing her highest highs and lowest lows. It’s that relatability that almost makes this album difficult to listen to the first time; you just can’t help but put yourself in Gwen’s shoes and feel every bit of what she’s feeling. But don’t be bashful. Give it a few listens and you’ll start to feel the highs outweigh the lows, which is hopefully indicative of her reality at the time it was written.
As they say, living well is the best revenge. And if one thing is for sure, it’s that despite tragedy, Gwen Stefani and her new album have come out triumphant. You go, Gwen.
This Is What the Truth Feels Like is available now on iTunes and at Target.
What do you think of the new Gwen Stefani album? Let me know in the comments below!
I participated in this sponsored album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided the album to review but all opinions are my own.