I’m not going to lie, I was a bit worried about Gwen Stefani’s comeback record after she released her preliminary singles “Baby Don’t Lie” and “Spark The Fire”, and I’m a big No Doubt fan so that’s hard for me to say. But having a new found inspiration after her split from Gavin Rossdale and falling in love with Blake Shelton she scraped the album and started fresh and thank goodness she did because the result is banger central. “This Is What The Truth Feels Like” is her most intimate and vulnerable record to date and see’s her channeling the emotional honesty that “Don’t Speak” captured while still holding onto the quirkiness “Harajuku Girls” and “Yummy” perfectly embodied.
Opening the album with “Misery” she looks at restarting and the feelings of falling in love again with a mid-tempo ballad that captures the essence of the album. It’s a song that takes a few listens to grow on you but it’s one of those feel good/reflecting pop tracks that you can’t help but love and bop along to. The disco tinged “Make Me Like You”, reggae influenced “Where Would I Be?” and the slow burner bop “Rare” follow this trend and are little pop gems. “Used To Love You” is the token heartbreak ballad that is the most raw we have heard Gwen with the emotional lyrics “I don’t know why I cry but I think it’s cause I remembered for the first time since I hated you that I used to love you”. The only other song that comes close to this emotional level is the airy pop ballad “Truth” but it’s more an emotional release of relief for starting fresh. “I really don’t wanna embarrass myself and no one’s gonna believe me, not even myself. And they’re all gonna say I’m rebounding so rebound all over me”
The rest of the album shows her angsty, cheeky and playful side. “You’re My Favourite” is the most experimental as it sees her playing with electronic production similar to Melanie Martinez track “Soap”. She gets sexy on the flirty “Send A Picture” which is yes about sexting. It’s really about that rediscovery of yourself after stepping out of a long term relationship. Don’t pretend like you haven’t done it before. Gwen has always given us a slight rapping vocal technique in her solo material along with a heavily influenced RNB sound and she brings these irresistible vibes back. “Naughty” is the strongest track with sassy lyrics that call her ex-husband out for cheating and you can’t help but go “YAS GIRL YOU SHADE HIM” once the chorus hits. “Thinking that nobody, nobody knows. But I got your number, I got your codes. This ain’t the first time at the rodeo, hello” // “You see this finger wagging, wagging at you, the naughty, naughty things you do. You did it, you did it, and then you hid it, admit it., you’ve been naughty, uh, huh, uh”. However they’re all not memorable with “Red Flag” completely skippable and “Asking 4 It” featuring an unnecessary rap from Fetty Wap which really could be dropped. But that honestly is the only negative I have from this album… And that’s not me sugar coating anything. This is a really strong pop album that welcomes the return of Gwen Stefani back into your arms and directly into your ears for a pleasurable listening session. Her growth is extensive with the lyrics so honest, heartbreaking and just classic Gwen. Even the deluxe edition is worth listening to with the playful “Rocket Ship”, foot stomper “Obsessed”, and the all-round groovy “Getting Warmer” making you question why they weren’t featured on the standard version.
Pop queens, it’s time to step up because one of the original queens is back for her throne.