Gwen Stefani – ‘This Is What The Truth Feels Like’ (Album Review)
Artist: Gwen Stefani
Album: This Is What The Truth Feels Like
Standouts: Truth, Send Me A Picture, Rare
Ten years ago, Gwen Stefani was winding it up and staying up to “4 In the Morning”. Her second solo album The Sweet Escape was an ambitious and left-field urban pop continuation of her debut record Love Angel Music Baby. Gwen masterfully channeled post-Rocksteady No Doubt gleamed with urban beats and 80s electronica. But after her two solo albums, she returned to being the frontwoman of No Doubt. There were no signs of another solo record to be spoken.
In 2014, Gwen replaced fellow blond diva Christina Aguilera as one of the judges on NBC’s The Voice. Sparks began to fly that Gwen would indeed release another solo album amiss her love affair with fellow judge Blake Shelton and messy public divorce to then husband Gavin Degraw. Her first single Baby Don’t Lie didn’t get the response her team probably had wanted. Even more troubling, the song sounded like an egregious rip of Ji Nilsson’s incredible single Heartbreakfree. It was back to the drawing board for our Harajuku girl. We’ll just overlook the unfortunate accident that was Spark The Fire.
The real life soap opera that Gwen was enduring fueled her emotionally charged follow-up single Used To Love You. At this time she took a new direction for her new album. (She reported that her previous work had been scrapped.) This new album would a direct response to her troubling public divorce as well her new found love. Her third single Make Me Like You was a return to form. It’s a glittering acid jazz/surf pop tune equipped with dazzling vocal arrangements and a sexy bass line. Gwen sounds immensely blissful and dreamy on this track.
The new album with the obnoxiously long title This Is What The Truth Feels Like is a mixed bag. But that’s to be expected from a Gwen album. Her eclectic music sensibility works for her. Gwen is able to bounce from genre to genre effortlessly. One moment she’s a trap-queen joined by Fetty Wap on Asking 4 It and the next moment she’s an acoustic poplet on Truth. Truth’s subtle stripped back production is nice slice of pop without the frills and ribbons. The ambient guitar riff and vocal harmonies swirl together faultlessly. The percussion’s rich layers blend well in this mix. Gwen’s lyrics are personal, sentimental and touching. Gwen has an attraction to Caribbean riddims which is evident on the Dancehall pop of Send Me A Picture. Its lustrous synths and smooth rhythm lie cozy on top of the wistful vocals. Gwen sounds exquisite and vulnerable. The forlorn lovesickness is brimming to the top. This kind of downhearted vibe is very relatable in our “always logged in” society we live in.
The finale of the album, Rare, is the quintessential Gwen Stefani song. Its gentle guitar plicks that leads into the stuttering synths is tranquil and euphoric. The sentimental lyrics are both heartwarming and tender. Gwen recounts her urban balladry of 4 In The Morning on this track. It’s quite lush and simple. This album does not revolutionize American pop music as her first two records successfully did. That’s not to say this album isn’t memorable in both production and emotional application. Gwen’s engaging vocal approach is sunny and melancholy as she shifts from the two facets on the album. If this is what the truth feels like, then Gwen should never tell a lie. The truth shall set you free and she is soaring high.