Gwen Stefani: This Is What the Truth Feels Like

Posted March 30, 2016 by in Disco



3/ 5


Genre: , , , ,
Producer: , , , , ,
Genre: Pop. indie pop, disco, hip-hop
Producer: J.R. Rotem, Greg Kurstin, Mattman & Robin, Stargate, Tim Blacksmith, Danny D, Teal Douville
Label: Interscope
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
Time: 41:37
Release Date: 18 March 2016
Spin This: "Make Me Like You," "You're My Favorite," "Where Would I Be?"


"Make Me Like You" is Stefani's disco inferno; first half reminds listeners of Stefani's fun punk side despite the breakup tales


Second half riddled with low points, goofy hip-hop and slouchy filler

After ten-year album pause, the “Hollaback Girl” explores break-up drama on disco, neo-reggae and urban beats

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

After ten-year album pause, the “Hollaback Girl” explores break-up drama on disco, neo-reggae and urban beats

gwenstefani-01After suffering from writer’s block with producer Benny Blanco back in 2014 and being unimpressed with the poor performances of their collaboration (the non-album tracks “Baby Don’t Lie” and “Spark the Fire”), Gwen Stefani went into a bit of a panic mood. Her marriage to Gavin Rossdale also plundered, eventually leading to a divorce at the end of 2015. Possibly inspired by her stint on the hit TV show The Voice where she serves as a celebrity judge and being touched by her rumored romance with Blake Shelton, the “Hollaback Girl” got back on the saddle again. By settling to end the ten-year album hiatus and once again walking away from the idea of returning to the No Doubt machine, Gwen Stefani wallows further into her career reinvention of bubbly punk pop princess on the twelve-track disc, This Is What the Truth Feels Like.

This time, Stefani is fully involved in composing the lyrics, dumping her emotions, frustrations and good vibes into honest conversations about falling in and out of love. It’s mostly a break-up album, but it doesn’t exactly come off as depressing due to the uptempo swirls of the album’s first half. She kicks off the adventure by writing about her self-described addiction to love in a morbid, dark fantasy on “Misery” (“You’re like drugs to me…put me out of my misery”). She fights through those feelings on “You’re My Favorite,” a song that gyrates with lowrider bass and urban club funk.

The next succession of tracks is where the album shines the brightest. “Where Would I Be?” plays with Amy Winehouse doo-wop and glares of No Doubt’s reggae from the lens of Greg Kurstin’s production vision. “Make Me Love You,” the clear winner, sounds like Toploader’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” set to buoyant disco. Stefani even finds a sneaky way to drop neo-reggae grooves on the DJ Snake/”Lean On”-sounding “Send Me a Picture.”

The album’s first half is a pleasant trip into familiar territory for Stefani, only casually hinting at newer progressions into fun disco and synthpop. But on the other half, things quickly crumble. On “Red Flag,” Stefani drops rhymes on the beats and comes off sounding like a sloppy Iggy Azalea stand-in. “Asking for It” reprises Fetty Wap’s 2015 hit song “Trap Queen” in the worst way. Not only is the Stargate-produced, Fetty Wap-featured track lifeless in form, but it shows off an irritating chorus burdened down with repetitive phrases and a faux sex appeal that tries to reach for Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation.” It stumbles in that attempt. “Naughty” is just as torrential to the ear. She finds a decent set of rhymes to play with (“You try to sneak it, hide and seek it/Put it in the past/try to antique it”), but the sacrifice on this simply isn’t enough. The offenses in Stefani’s ratchet phrasing and “naughty, uh, uh, uh” line on this number sounds like a sloppy joke, poking fun at Miley Cyrus silliness and the whole conversation of racial appropriation. The abundant UFO swirls only enhances the earfuckery.

Thanks to “Rare,” where Stefani pulls out a silver lining moment amidst the dark clouds of before, she closes the disc with a joyful romance (“You’re rare/And only a stupid girl would let you go”) across indiepop vibes that feel like they’ve been cultivated from the bird and the bee leftovers.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like will still please Stefani’s fan base, a section of followers who have been starving for a complete disc from the No Doubt diva for a decade. The disc is uneven, brutally rushed and at times quite cumbersome, but Stefani still sounds engaged in the music making process. It could have been better, cleaner and richer, with just a little more guidance and Top 40 pop polish. Cutting out the album filler and the big mistakes on the album’s back end would have sparred her from these newfound and unexpected embarrassments.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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