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A Weird Love Letter to Gwen Stefani's Solo Career

I've had a very special spot in my heart for Gwen Stefani the majority of my life. She was definitely my big childhood love (I had the biggest crush on her as a kid) and as I got older, her music was very nostalgic and comfortable to me. I still listen to No Doubt pretty frequently, even though I tend to feel like I've outgrown them to a degree. 

I can't say the exact same thing for Gwen's solo career. I still think she's one of the most formidable (and legendary) women in pop, but suffice to say, musically her ship has sailed for me. "This Is What the Truth Feels Like" (her last solo pop album, we do not speak of the Christmas album in these parts) had some really stellar moments, but overall was not on the same level as her debut, which is a pretty decent pop album. (Sans, of course, the weird fetishization of the Harajuku girls ... even high school me was like what is happening here?) "The Sweet Escape," too, was pretty muddied - but its strong moments were indeed strong. And "Baby Don't Lie" was terrible - I was happy to see she ended up canning that. 

Word broke last week Gwen was releasing a new single, "Let Me Reintroduce Myself" (it took me several attempts to realize that *was* the single's actual title). Tomorrow at 9 AM PST, we will all know what this song sounds like. I am slightly excited, somewhat horrified, with pretty low-to-the-damn-ground expectations. I don't think it's going to be that good, I am sad to say, although if she shocks me with some amazing pop spectacle I will gladly eat my words. I mean, Dua Lipa had Gwen on her remix album of "Future Nostalgia," WHO KNOWS WHAT COULD HAPPEN. Maybe Dua had an intervention with her? 

This all being said, I still think Gwen seems to be a total sweetheart, so I don't want to speak too much ill of her. I just wish sometimes she made better choices, which I'm sure someone is reading this and thinking "I think that EXACT same thing about you, Britt." 

There are some really standout nuggets in Gwen's canon, and in this post, I will celebrate those moments. We will ignore the rest.

Hollaback Girl

I would be amiss not to include the beautiful trainwreck that is "Hollaback Girl." Like, it's so WEIRD it's GOOD. I don't know how to explain this song, why it exists, how it exists. I believe it's a clapback at Courtney Love. I can only imagine Courtney's reaction after hearing this song. I'd be like, "wat?" It's just bizarre, but you kind of have to love it. 

I hated this song for years, but it grew on me in the past decade. Like, here is Gwen at her most guiltily enjoyable. She's singing about the most basic "I'm so rich" crap, but it just sounds sexy and good? Like it kind of makes you want to cover yourself in butter and wrap yourself in silk sheets? No wait that's just me? Hmm.

"Cool" is Gwen at her very best. IMO, Gwen actually shines the most when she's singing with true emotion, and not trying to be this lighthearted walk in the park. That's why "Tragic Kingdom" is such a timeless album. She got her heart ripped out, and she made this masterpiece trying to come to terms with the aftermath. "Cool" is not quite that level of emotion, but it's more of a sweet story of healing and if anything, a love story about a friendship that can withstand the tumults of heartbreak. Plus the video is equally sweet, too. 

Rich Girl (featuring Eve) 

When Gwen reunited with Eve for her solo debut, the results were strange but also kind of awesome, too. I mean, this is a riff on a "FIDDLER ON THE ROOF" song. Like, what? Who does that? And that's what keeps Gwen somewhat segmented from other pop stars. Sometimes she's just really weird for someone of her caliber. This song is undeniably catchy, too, and it works just fine. 

"Wonderful Life"
"Wonderful Life" should have been a single, it was much stronger in every conceivable way than "Wind It Up" (which is a super guilty pleasure for me, but I can only stomach it once every few years as an adult). The song is about a boy Gwen dated growing up who killed himself. It's a sad song, and it's an extremely well-done new wave track, but it's also really refreshing to see Gwen sing about something other than heartbreak or something banal/weird. Honestly, if you listen to any song on this list, make it this one. (She also uses it as an homage to one of her favorite films "It's a Wonderful Life.") I wonder if maybe this song was just too personal to be a single, but IDK. "Used to Love You" was her big comeback single a few years ago. 

"4 in the Morning" 
If you look back on some of these songs from the lens that Gwen would divorce from Gavin Rossdale, they make way more sense. There's a lot yearning and almost tangible hurt in "4 in the Morning." Like ... you can just sense the frustration, and it's palpable. I think ever since entering the world of "The Voice" Gwen (who has always been a bit manufactured) has become more manufactured, because I really have a rough time coming up with any other moments aside from "Used to Love You" that she showed any pathos in recent years. "4 in the Morning" is as raw and as unfiltered as Gwen allows herself to be. 

"Early Winter" 

I'm glad this song made it as a single. Working with members of Keane (yup THEM), Gwen came up with another beautiful new wave ballad. Honestly, if Gwen ever released an album full of songs as strong as "Early Winter," I'd eat that up in a heartbeat. This song is an absolute classic, right up there with the best of No Doubt.

"Used to Love You" 
Man, if I was Gavin Rossdale and heard this song, I'd bawl like a baby and change my name and move to like, the edge of the world. I'm not Gavin though, but even still, this song was super emotional to hear for the first ever time. She channeled so much hurt and pain into this song, and the video is actually kind of uncomfortable to watch. This song isn't easy to listen to at all, so I don't revisit it often. But it deserves a shoutout for an authenticity that I missed seeing in her. It's a bummer the rest of the album "This Is What the Truth Feels Like" fell short, but in a few key moments, she hit the ball out of the park.

"Make Me Like You" 
Gwen Stefani's last amazing pop song - a catchy, breezy track that seems to get a fair amount of replay for good reason. I was pretty floored when I heard this, as it just sounded perfect. Then of course I remembered it's about Blake Shelton. 🙄 Whatever he makes her happy, God bless.

So, there you have my quick take of things. Feel free to disregard my opinion; I've only been following Gwen's career closely since the early 2000s. Do you think "Let Me Reintroduce Myself" will make a future similar list? I will update the UC when I listen to it tomorrow, don't you worry. 

P.S. I didn't really include any of her collabs here, but "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" and "South Side" are classics, and deserve streaming ASAP. 


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