Gwen Stefani’s new album is ‘This Is What the Truth Feels Like.’ It’s the third solo album from the No Doubt frontwman and coach on NBC’s ‘The Voice’ and arrives with much fanfare and expectation. Now the music critics are weighing in and here’s a roundup of reviews.
Yes, it’s been a decade since Gwen Stefani released a solo album, and that alone would have generated much buzz and anticipation. But this new album arrives in the midst of personal upheaval for the pop music superstar and fashion influencer who rose to fame in the mid-1990s with her ska-punk band No Doubt.
First it was the single, ‘Used to Love You,’ that caused quite a stir as it was released soon after Gwen Stefani and her husband Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, announced their divorce after a decade of marriage and three children together, and an affair-with-the-nanny scandal to boot.
But that was just the beginning of the autobiographical songwriting speculation, as she released another single, ‘Make Me Like You,’ in the weeks after she and new boyfriend and fellow coach on ‘The Voice’ confirmed they are dating.
Gwen Stefani, ever the trailblazer, also made history by shooting the music video live on television as a commercial in partnership with retail giant Target during the Grammy Awards, and later said of the adventure, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, when asked if the song was about Blake Shelton, she did say, “It is, actually. I will admit that that song is about that guy, yeah.”
Now the album arrives in full, with a title that proclaims even more autobiography, ‘This Is What the Truth Feels Like.’ As the artist’s personal life has become clickbait of celebrity news Web sites, it almost serves to eclipse the musical merit. But, the critics are, of course, seeing past all the paparazzi spectacle of an artist trying to move on after a divorce and into a new relationship. After all, the music plays on regardless even as it was fueled by life changing events that have played out in public.
So yes, with this blitz of publicity aside, the music critics are weighing in and some found much to praise and others found much to take issue with. Here’s a roundup.
“….”This Is What the Truth Feels Like” has songs about betrayal and disappointment, and songs about moving on from a broken relationship and falling in love again. Yet given the untidiness of those themes — not to mention the sense of bewilderment she cops to more than once — what’s surprising about the album is the clarity with which Stefani expresses herself. It also offers proof, perhaps unexpected, that at 46 she’s figured out how to adapt modern pop to her needs…..” — L.A. Times
“…..The album offers splashes of roller-rink glee, couples-therapy drama, perfumed mash notes, sweetly chaste naughtiness, a little mean girl sniping, and a lot of pop bounce to the ounce, making it the best and most personal of her three solo releases…..” — Boston Globe
“…..Over the album’s 12 tracks, Stefani doesn’t mope once – in fact, a lot of the time she sounds like she doesn’t give a s**t. ‘Where Would I Be’ and ‘Send Me A Picture’ say it with Disney dancehall, while ‘Me Without You’ is the closest she comes to balladry, singing “I don’t need you/not a little bit” over polished trip-hop. The standout ‘Asking 4 It’ even features the distinctive drawl of ‘Trap Queen’ rapper Fetty Wap, backing up her nonchalant divorcée swagger…..” — NME
“….Some of this incoherence is endemic to pop in the mid-2010s, where standard operating procedure calls for superstars to work with a revolving team of producers, not a key collaborator. Some of this is also due to Stefani’s desire to be everything to everyone, a grande dame who revels in her past while living for the future. By pursuing the twin inclinations to spill her heart while pushing musically forward, Stefani often mangles the mood. ….” –All Music
“….The album has a rushed feel–a likable but low-personality version of her familiar bubble-pop solo mode, alternating between miffed breakup plaints (the Amy Winehouse tribute “Naughty”) and gushy new-boyfriend songs. ….” –Rolling Stone
“…. Though she insists that she wasn’t out to make hits, the lack of a strong angle makes it feel like it was designed for mass audiences. And if this was her way of exorcising some demons, we can forgive the failed stabs at vitriol and wait for the next sunny pop jams. Gwen Stefani needed to move on to something new, and after this record, so will her fans…..” –Consequence of Sound
“….At 46, the mother of three can sometimes sound like the world’s most glamorous high school sophomore, passing mash notes after study hall. But she wears her girlishness on her own terms, and here it feels truer—and sounds stronger—than it has in years….” — Entertainment Weekly
Now the album is out and fans will have their chance to weigh in. Will they embrace this new album with “truth” in the title and a backstory that eclipses all else? You can see the ‘This Is What the Truth Feels Like’ album cover art and music video below!
Pictures: PR Photos