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Review: Gwen Stefani – This Is What the Truth Feels Like

Last Friday, March 18, ageless queen Gwen Stefani finally released her long-awaited third solo studio album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like, her first in almost ten years. Damn, I can't believe it's been a decade since The Sweet Escape!


Last October, following her highly publicized divorce from her husband of 13 years, Gavin Rossdale, Gwen dropped the emotional lead single "Used to Love You." Given its confessional nature, I instantly expected the album to include lots of angsty, lovelorn ballads in the vein of "Early Winter" (one of the best ballads of all time), "4 in the Morning," and "Don't Speak."

The following month, after weeks of speculation, Gwen confirmed she was in a relationship with her The Voice co-host Blake Shelton, which would inevitably become an additional source of inspiration for her upcoming album. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about these two being an item. Blake is actually kind of cute, but in an uncle sort of way, if that makes any sense. I just feel like he's a little too vanilla for someone so cool and badass like Gwen.

Hmmm

But hey, if he truly makes her happy, that's all that matters, right? Anyway, on to the review.

1. "Misery"
Despite its title, the album's opener is actually quite a happy, upbeat number. Here, drugs are used as a metaphor to describe Gwen's lovesickness, as she begs her new lover to put her out of her misery following the end of her marriage. I'm still not really sure what to make of this song.



2. "You're My Favorite"
Not exactly an immediate attention-grabber, but there's something catchy about its lullaby-like backdrop, complete with twinkling, trap-lite synth beats. It may grow on me eventually.

3. "Where Would I Be?"
On the reggae- and ska-flavored "Where Would I Be?," Gwen basically wonders where she would be without her new beau's love; there's even a "Hollaback Girl"-esque cheerleader chant during its bridge. Um, I think I'm going to skip this one.

4. "Make Me Like You"
A cute little disco-pop tune that chronicles the early stages of Gwen's newfound romance with Blake, which makes her feel excited and scared at the same time. It's nothing really special, it sounds like a better fit for someone like Kylie Minogue.



5. "Truth"
Finally a song I truly love! Atmospheric synth washes and sparse guitar riffs provide the right amount of introspection and poignancy for "Truth," which finds Gwen expressing how grateful she is that Blake has saved her, no matter how confusing or scary this new relationship is, while realizing she's worth true love. The lyrics also nod to the possible public perception of the relationship ("And no one's gonna believe me, not even myself / And they're all gonna say I'm rebounding"). Simply beautiful and chill-inducing.


6. "Used to Love You"
The album's most candid, emotionally raw song, documenting the intense feelings of sadness, anger, and grief that come during the aftermath of a broken marriage. Despite looking back at happy times she had with Gavin, Gwen questions herself on why she fell in love with him in the first place. The production feels a bit undercooked, but her voice sounds amazing, and you can see it comes from a genuine place. Though "Used to Love You" is no "Early Winter," it's certainly a vast improvement on the mediocre singles that preceded it, "Baby Don't Lie" and "Spark the Fire."


7. "Send Me a Picture"
"Send me a picture right now / 'Cause I been waiting such a long time / To get you right in front of these eyes / Yeah, I been waiting such a long time." Gwen gurl, don't try to fool me—we all know what you really mean.



No, but seriously, "Send Me a Picture" is decent, and it has a laid-back dancehall vibe to it. It's another grower, I guess.

8. "Red Flag"
Oh. My. God. The white-girl rap. What is even going on here?



Really, this song makes even "Spark the Fire" sound good. As Pretty Much Amazing puts it, Gwen's rapping "is supposed to sound 'sassy' but instead ends up sounding like the world's squarest suburban mom fake-rapping at her kids to deter them from going to an Eminem show." LMAO! Sorry, Gwen, I love you, but I couldn't have said it better myself.

9. "Asking 4 It" (featuring Fetty Wap)
Fetty Wap? Really, Gwen?? I can never understand a word he says (even Gwen herself has recently admitted it), the guy legit sounds like a fucking dying walrus. If his presence alone wasn't shitty enough, the song itself doesn't seem to go anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if this were released as a single at some point, I mean, it's quite radio-friendly. I really hope that never happens, though.


Me trying to figure out why on earth a flawless goddess like Gwen would collaborate with trash like Fetty Wap

10. "Naughty"
Completing the trinity of songs we could certainly do without, along with "Red Flag" and "Asking 4 It," is "Naughty." I'll say no more.



11. "Me Without You"
This midtempo trip-hop-inspired cut is t
he album's most empowering moment, on which a post-divorce Gwen realizes she can finally be herself again and she's free to do whatever the hell pleases her, while acknowledging the good things that are in store for her. "No, I don't need you, not a little bit / To myself, I've finally admitted it," she sings triumphantly. Now this is a song I really need to incorporate into my life at the moment.

12. "Rare"
Guys, I've just found my favorite song. Seriously, this has got to be the next single! "Rare" is so beautiful and tender, but there's also a bittersweet tone to it, and I love how the track blends acoustic guitars and synths under Gwen's airy vocals. "I am broken, I am insecure / Complicated, oh yeah, that's for sure / I feel worthless, I've been hurt so bad / I get nervous you won't love me back." This verse speaks deeply to my soul—if I have one.
Ugh, this is getting a bit too real for me.



Also, it has been suggested that the line "You're rare, and only a stupid girl would let it go" is a dig at Blake's ex-wife, Miranda Lambert. Gurrrrl...

Bonus tracks

13. "Rocket Ship"
I am NOT here for this.



14. "Getting Warmer"
I love it!! Definitely one of the album's standouts, right up there with "Rare" and "Truth." I think it's such a crime that this was relegated to bonus-track status. "Getting Warmer" begins as a dreamy ballad before erupting into glitchy electronics, while lyrically, Gwen continues to meditate on the direction her new relationship is taking. "Let it be mutual, let it be crucial," she croons. Gwen truly gets me.

15. "Obsessed"
Filler track. And the chorus is so annoying, to be honest.

16. "Splash"
I feel like I should like this, but eh, it doesn't do much for me. The grinding synth breakdown is pretty good, though.

17. "Loveable"
I like the message behind this song. Gwen's divorce has obviously affected her, so she's intent on proving to her ex that she can still be loved by someone new—in this case, Blake. I'm just not a fan of her singing here, especially the way she keeps repeating "loveable, loveable, loveable" in the chorus.

18. "War Paint"
This track is exclusive to the Japanese edition of the album, but quite frankly, the rest of the world isn't really missing out on anything major.


I'm not going to lie, Truth feels rather underwhelming. It's not like I expected a rehash of her previous work, but a lot of the album lacks that unique Gwen quality, and instead seems content to chase trends. The ballads and midtempo numbers are clearly the selling point of the album, whereas the uptempo material is dated and faceless—there are no fun, quirky cuts like "What You Waiting For?," "Bubble Pop Electric," "Crash," or "Yummy." Truth is by no means a complete disaster either, so I'm confident that my queen can still come up with something fresh and solid in the near future, without sounding desperate to appeal to younger crowds (I'm looking at you, Madonna).

So, how'd you like the album? Do you agree with my assessment? Or do you think I should have rated certain songs differently?

Happy Easter, sluts!

Me getting ready to steal your man this Easter

Comments

  1. OMG you just made 2016 for me. That was incredible. Thank you for the laughter. Also, Gwen is not .... oh god I love her but I just, I just can't sometimes. I can't.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, why is she even trying with Miranda? Gwen, come on!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also, "Make Me Like You" is so charming. I love it. I haven't been able to listen to more of the album. "Misery" is pretty forgettable IMO.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked it gurl! I do wonder if she was really shading Miranda or that was just an unfortunate coincidence, hmmm. Yep, even Gwen makes mistakes. The ballads are amazing, but the uptempo songs are so bad and forgettable :( Don't even bother with the bonus tracks, except for "Getting Warmer," which is sooooo good!!

      Delete

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