It’s been 10 years since Gwen Stefani released The Sweet Escape but, what with being a judge on The Voice and going through a widely publicised, messy divorce, she has kept herself largely relevant to current pop culture. Her new album This Is What The Truth Feels Like is proof that Stefani still has it in her to write catchy pop tunes spiced with an attitude that only she can pull off.
Written after the end of her 13-year marriage to Gavin Rossdale, there are only a few moments when the record comes across as a break-up album. In fact, it feels more like a celebration of her new relationship with Blake Shelton.
She’s experiencing falling in love all over again in Make Me Like You, an infectious disco track so sweet and simple it makes you relive your first crush; in the synth pop Rare she declares she’s found perfect love, the mellow music escalating with her joy into an electronic dance chorus.
Songs like hip-hop tinged Red Flag and Naughty see Stefani back in HollabackGirl-mode, chanting verses while wagging a finger in your face. But underneath the I-don’t-care attitude are hints of vulnerability. “I’m not a rookie, I’m so used to being played,” she says in Red Flag.
But Stefani is still at her best when she is sad and angry. Used to Love You is a heart-wrenching number, and Stefani is agonised yet defiant as she belts out “I used to love you”, curving her vocals upwards to emphasise the “used to”.
Other tracks are less memorable, but shattering moments like these completely make up for that.