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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Album review: Gwen Stefani’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like is catchy but doesn’t rise above average

This Is What the Truth Feels Like is an OK batch of pop tunes that don’t reveal much about Stefani the singer or person.
This Is What the Truth Feels Like is Gwen Stefani's first solo album in 10 years. Interscope via AP
This Is What the Truth Feels Like is Gwen Stefani's first solo album in 10 years. Interscope via AP

This Is What the Truth Feels Like

Gwen Stefani

(Interscope Records)

Two stars

Gwen Stefani’s new solo album is fun and catchy: the hooks are cute and likeable, the beats will make your head bop and her voice is calm and cool.

But after listening to it, you’re on to the next thing.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like, Stefani’s first solo album in 10 years, isn’t memorable or distinctive. It’s not that the songs are bad – because they aren’t. But they aren’t good either. The 12 tracks are an OK batch of pop tunes that don’t reveal much about Stefani the singer or person.

Though the lyrical content of some is deep, the tracks don’t drip with emotion. Instead, the album sounds tailor-made for radio, and the songs lack in both originality and personality – a thing that’s usually a speciality of Stefani’s.

For all the talk that the album delves into her personal life, it’s hard to tell where that comes in. The content, even when it’s about heartbreak and ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, has a bubblegum feel. It’s as if Stefani is hiding behind the songs’ beat and hook, and her vocal tonality is on cruise control throughout – whether the subject is heartache or happiness.

Truth Feels Like features a number of hit-making producers, including Greg Kurstin (Sia, Pink, Lily Allen), J R Rotem (Jason Derulo, Empire TV series), Stargate (Rihanna, Ne-Yo) and Mattman & Robin (Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez).

But all that talent might be the reason the album doesn’t rise above average.

The project does have some highlights: Send Me a Picture, which is likely about boyfriend Blake Shelton, sounds a bit more experimental than the other tracks. Red Flags and Asking 4 It, which features rapper Fetty Wap, are high points, too.

But songs such as Naughty and the singles Used to Love You and Make Me Like You don’t feel connected to Stefani – it’s as if another pop star could sing the tracks and you wouldn’t notice the difference. That’s disappointing for a singer who is usually a standout on the pop music scene.

Holla back girl when you make your next album.

* Mesfin Fekadu