Few artists have the ingenuity and gravitas as Gwen Stefani. Her first solo album in ten years, This Is What The Truth Feels Like, is a long awaited and much needed return from Gwen, who – although she is quite underrated compared to other icons like Madonna and Cher — has paved the way for the pop princesses of the day just the same. Oddly enough, This Is What The Truth Feels Like is Stefani’s first solo album to hit number one. With an entire decade of life’s experiences under her belt, much of the new album has been inspired by the end of her marriage. In contrast with her energetic and upbeat solo debut, Love.Angel.Music.Baby, This Is What The Truth Feels Like sees Gwen reflecting on more somber topics like heartbreak, betrayal, and the vulnerability that comes with falling in love again.
‘Misery’ opens the album with Gwen lamenting over love lost and regretting still being attached. It’s a catchy song, but does suffer from sounding a bit generic. ‘Where Would I Be?’, on the other hand, benefits from No Doubt’s influence on Gwen’s life. It mixes the best of the pop artist with the ska/rocker persona that fronts No Doubt.
‘Make Me Like You’, the album’s second single, offers a more upbeat Gwen. She’s fallen in love again and is more hopeful and inspired. Despite the music video feeling more dated than nostalgic/retro than her work on ‘Cool’, ‘Make Me Like You’ is still a highlight from This Is What The Truth Feels Like.
The album’s titular track, ‘Truth’, is a raw and honest song as Gwen accepts that although heartbreak may have left her feeling empty and devoid of all emotion, she deserves love. “But maybe I deserve this boy after all I’ve been through”. When true love comes along, don’t deny it, and go with the flow, no matter how the past has made you feel.
This Is What The Truth Feels Like‘s first single, ‘Used To Love You’ was likely a cathartic moment in Gwen’s life. After scrapping her original comeback album after singles ‘Baby Don’t Lie’ and ‘Spark The Fire’ underwhelmed, ‘Used To Love You’ put an extremely defenseless Gwen back in the spotlight. Coming to grips with her loss probably helped her get over it, and ‘Used To Love You’ is a heartfelt song that has no doubt helped Gwen replace painful memories with happiness at the success of the song and album.
The album takes a sonic turn with ‘Red Flag’ that fans of Gwen’s previous work are more likely to feel captures her essence better. The production gets darker and the lyrics more inventive and less romantic. ‘Red Flag’, ‘Asking 4 It’, and ‘Naughty’ in particular are gems stuffed into the album in a place usually reserved for ballads and filler.
Overall, This Is What The Truth Feels Like is a more polished and meticulous album than The Sweet Escape or Love.Angel.Music.Baby. Stefani’s sound has naturally evolved over the course of a decade, and she has fine-tuned her musical efforts. However, part of the charm of her previous solo material was the gritty and messy sound. Traces of that Gwen are still found in tracks like ‘Where Would I Be?’, ‘Naughty’, and ‘Asking 4 It’, but it’s obvious that Gwen has matured and refined both her sound and image.
This Is What The Truth Feels Like is a breakup album that makes its own rules. Gwen’s positive outlook only allows for a few truly sad songs, with Stefani choosing to primarily focus on the future and embracing new love. If you’re reeling from a recent breakup, This Is What The Truth Feels Like may just end up being what you need to hear to have a spark of hope back in your life. It’s refreshing to see Stefani use her painful experiences to inspire encouraging thoughts and emotions while still embracing and acknowledging that sadness is part of coping and recovering from a broken heart.