Featured Artist: Gwen Stefani (Part 1)
Originally going solo during No Doubt’s 2004 hiatus, Gwen Stefani’s solo career has been as exciting as it has unpredictable. Coming after No Doubt’s fifth album, it acted as an extreme presentation of the changes the band had seen on Rock Steady; rather than focusing on ska or reggae, the electronic influences were taken and made into something with more pop appeal, potentially alienating for long-time No Doubt fans but a hit in every other aspect.
From the moment Stefani debuted with What You Waiting For?, it was clear that she was onto something. With the intensely personal lyrics No Doubt fans had come to expect coupled with a new wave sound that stood out from the pop stars of the time, Stefani had all ears on her. When Hollaback Girl came out six months later, her pop stardom was solidified with a bona fide smash hit and a chorus that is still instantly recognizable over 10 years later. Focusing on an 80s aesthetic and featuring production from the likes of Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams as a part of The Neptunes, her debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. was destined for success, and eventually charted just as well as her singles internationally.
Despite claims that she had sworn never to release a second solo album, The Sweet Escape came into being within the next two years. Featuring songs originally slated for Love. Angel. Music. Baby. alongside new material, it largely retained her winning formula; while her quirky attitude was in full bloom on Wind It Up, the album also featured a more R&B and hip-hop oriented sound, offering a different take while still retaining her throwback new wave flair on songs like Fluorescent. While her status as a pop icon needed no further cementing than it had already received, the album was a worthy successor to her stellar debut.
Following The Sweet Escape, however, her career entered another silent phase. No Doubt was once again working together on music, but minimal updates were offered on their progress. It was a long six years until the release of their sixth studio album Push and Shove, but wearing some of her newfound pop influence on top of their ska and reggae roots, they once again found success in America. With her solo career all but finished for the sake of No Doubt, fans were left wondering whether there would even be a follow-up album from Stefani.
The question was finally answered in 2014: With the release of singles Baby Don’t Lie and Spark the Fire, Stefani was confirmed as back to work on her solo career with a new album on the way. Everything fell silent for almost a year, though, until she dropped Used To Love You in October of last year, complete with a new sound in tow. Unhappy with how the previous singles had turned out and in the midst of a high-profile divorce, Stefani scrapped the old version of the album and began anew, once again delivering the catchy yet confessional lyrics fans have come to know and love.
And now, after ten years without an album, the wait finally ends in March with the release of This Is What The Truth Feels Like. With some truly exciting material before it and fans hungry for more music, one of the 2000’s biggest pop icons is finally coming back to save pop music once again.
Check back with us soon for the 2nd part of our Featured Artist spotlight on Gwen Stefani and our review of This Is What The Truth Feels Like.