International music icon, seasoned coach on “The Voice” and L.A.M.B. fashion empress, Gwen Stefani established her status as a giant in the music industry in an impressive 30-year career. The queen recently launched her third solo album This is What the Truth Feels Like on Friday, and one thing is for certain: She ain’t no hollaback girl.
This is What the Truth Feels Like is Stefani at her rawest. The album bursts at the seams with Stefani’s infectiously bold but real personality. Each song unlocks a different facet of Stefani’s edgy, rocker voice. What might particularly be addictive for fans is the stream-of-consciousness transparency with which she and her co-writers pen about her life. There are no secrets about the rise and fall of her relationships.
The album’s statement piece is the instrumentally minimalistic, laidback song “Truth.” While not particularly creative, the lyrics hit a sweet spot in their relatability. They focus on finding a truth for oneself and forgoing what critics might have to say, e.g. her budding relationship with fellow “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton.
Many were convinced that Gwen and ex-husband Gavin Rossdale were forever, but they weren’t. Yet, if anything positive came out of the media-frenzied breakup, it was the emotional punch of a premier album single, “Used to Love You.” The powerful song showcases her vocal talent and effortless ability to emote, bringing listeners back to the feels of “Don’t Speak.” Sharing the same salt-in-the-wound tenderness is “Me Without You,” which speaks to the sobering reality of moving on after a breakup.
Less gut-wrenching breakup tracks include “Naughty” and “Red Flag,” which playfully capture the burgeoning distrust in a wavering relationship. While catchy, their experimental form with half-talked, sped-up lyrics is underwhelming.
Although one significant relationship in her life failed, it doesn’t mean that love is dead for Stefani. With fluffy background vocals and breezy guitar sounds, “Make Me Like You” is a catchy rainbow burst of a feel-good pop song about the butterflies that come with falling for someone. Speaking of love songs, Stefani also teams up with rising hip-hop star Fetty Wap in “Asking 4 It,” and their voices sound surprisingly good together. Adorned with the rapper’s signature background “yaaaahs” and “1738s,” the song taps into the vulnerabilities involved in a new relationship.
In an industry ruled by young female artists, Stefani competently conveys through music that life doesn’t stop throwing curveballs at you even at age 46 — her sentimental lyrics resonate with listeners of all ages. This is What the Truth Feels Like ultimately defines real maturity not as the gilded appearance of grace and togetherness, but in self-awareness.