This Is What The Truth Feels Like is the third studio album by singer/songwriter Gwen Stefani (and her first solo album in 10 years.) Maybe you know Gwen from No Doubt. Maybe you know her from NBC's The Voice. And although it's hard for me to believe, maybe you don't know Stefani at all. If that's the case, we're not friends. Period. However, I am willing to reconsider our friendship if you are willing to give this album a listen. I will respect you no matter what your opinion of it may be (but I'm only going to like you if you enjoy it.)
Don't read into that incorrectly, though. This is not a perfect album. I just wanted to make it clear that I am definitely a fan of Gwen Stefani, & I always have been. This review might have some bias because of that, but this is my blog so I can put as much bias into it as I want. I'm reviewing all 18 tracks of the Japanese Deluxe Version one-by-one, as it's the only version with the track "War Paint" & therefore the most complete edition. This is how I like to read & write album reviews. With that being said, on with the review, starting with:
Track 1: "Misery"
So when I first listened to this album, I decided to live tweet my review of each track. I only reviewed the standard edition (first 12 tracks) so as not to clutter my followers' timelines, but it was around 5 AM & no one saw or cared. I'm going to embed my tweets of those first 12 tracks in this review so you can see my actual reactions at the time of my first listening. I'm also listening to each track on loop right now as I review them to keep them fresh in my mind.
As you can see, you can only express so much in 140 characters. "Misery" is definitely a great first track for the album, & I think they made a good choice in making it a single. It's very upbeat & fun. I said that the repeated line "You're like drugs to me" gave me 'Kesha vibes' because of Kesha's track "Your Love Is My Drug." While the lyric gives me a pleasing Kesha feel, the actual vocals on the lyric remind me of something straight off of Charli XCX's album True Romance (2013). For me, being reminded of these two artists is definitely not a bad thing. They have both released some great pop music, & this track is proof that Gwen can release some great pop music as well. As you'll see later on in this review, I experienced bits & pieces of various artists on this album. It seems that Gwen & her producers have taken inspiration from some of the big names in pop music, & being a pop fan myself, I can't complain. The first verse sets a great tone for the whole song: "Where'd you go...I'm trying not to care, but..." The chorus in "Misery" is undeniably catchy, & I find myself singing it often in the shower. The bridge repeats the lyric "You're in so much trouble (You better watch out)" & I found that Gwen is capable of getting away with repetitious lyrics in this album (with some exceptions.) The best section of the track is at the end, about 3 minutes in. The chorus & bridge blend seamlessly, Gwen's vocals become fragmented as she sings "ou-out of my misery," & I couldn't be more pleased with the way it all comes together. The song has a near perfect build & progression from beginning to end. This is definitely a top track on the album.
Track 2: "You're My Favorite"
If you're familiar with the works of artist & previous The Voice contestant Melanie Martinez, you're definitely going to think this song is from her album Cry Baby (2015) as soon as it starts. The vocals sound nothing like Martinez, but the instrumental is very easy to mistake as hers.
Melanie Martinez comparisons aside (because frankly, I'm a bit sick of hearing about her lately), this is still a uniquely Gwen song. My favorite section is definitely the pre-chorus:
But I've been there, done that, buyed it, tried it
More than I can count
Shook it, stirred it, broke it, smoked it
More than I can count
If you sing along with this bit successfully, I promise you'll feel like the next big rap artist on the block. However, I also promise that any actual rapper will laugh in your face if you call yourself a rapper while singing this. As you can see from my tweet above, I called the chorus repetitive, & I still stand by this statement. I know I said earlier that Gwen can pull off a repetitive song, but this is one of the exceptions, & it's easy to explain why this chorus seems too repetitive: the rhyming isn't actually rhyming. Take a look at the chorus & take note of the rhymes that I've put in bold:
Oh, but out of everything, you're my favorite
I tried a lot of things, but you're my favorite
Oh, I think I worked this out
Finally worked this out
Cause out of everything, you're my favorite
That's right, Gwen & her writers thought it would be a good idea to rhyme 'everything' with 'things,' 'favorite' with 'favorite,' & 'out' with 'out.' Not quite the strongest lyrics on the album. It's likely that this chorus could have worked if this song was a little more upbeat, but the chorus is too laid back for this to be possible. For example, the chorus of "I Really Like You" from Carly Rae Jepsen's album Emotion (2015) is one of the most repetitive pop choruses in recent memory, & it even rhymes 'you' with 'you.' However, the song is so upbeat, I'm willing to forgive the weak lyrics because the chorus is so fun to sing along too. "Your My Favorite" has enjoyable verses & a strong pre-chorus (where the repetition works!), but the chorus falls flat. The only section left of this song is the bridge, & as you can see from my tweet, I felt some more inspiration from another artist. If you played only the bridge for someone & had them guess who was singing, I'm pretty sure the guesses would be almost unanimously Madonna. If someone guessed any other artist, it just means that they've never heard Madonna sing. And if that's the case, you should help that person move out from the rock they live under. I would honestly be very impressed if someone correctly guessed Gwen as the artist on his or her first time listening to only the bridge, & then would promptly ask him or her to pick my Lotto numbers. I don't gamble, but if I met this person, I just might start.
Track 3: "Where Would I Be?"
Well, if I had to answer that question after listening to this song, I'd guess Gwen would be touring with Fergie. There's just something about the chorus (this song starts with it) that reminds me of her. Not a bad thing for me. I have waited so long for Fergie to release an album that this song is a good substitute in the meantime. I have a dream in which I'm seeing Gwen perform live & this track comes up & Fergie comes out from backstage to provide her vocals on the chorus. That would be the collaboration of a lifetime for me.
But enough dreaming--let's focus on the reality at hand. This is a great song. Each section of "Where Would I Be?" shines in its own respective ways. So I want to break this song down. You already know that the chorus is a favorite of mine. Though, admittedly, it's extremely repetitive. The verses are great. Gwen performs a vocal run at the end of each line, making them extremely fun to sing along to. Then there's that sweet, sweet pre-chorus (I'm using 'sweet' lightly here.) Just like the verses, Gwen has a unique way of ending each line in the pre-chorus. The second to last note is held out longer than the rest, & then the last note is almost spat out. Again, this makes the song extremely fun to sing along to. The highlight of the pre-chorus is definitely the repeated line "I need some water, so water me." The verses & chorus are cute, but then the pre-chorus comes in & suddenly you realize how sexy this song actually is. Granted, it's not "R&B sexy." It's "pop sexy," which is the best type of sexy when you're singing at the top of your lungs in the car. Then comes the "overtime." Gwen brings back that sound we all know & love from "Hollaback Girl," the smash-hit from Gwen's 2004 album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. for the bridge of "Where Would I Be?" & it's a welcome addition for any longtime Gwen Stefani fan. This sound can only be described as "Cheer Captain Gwen, complete with sports references, a coach's whistle, & a thumping bass line." You can quote me on that. If you weren't a fan of "Hollaback Girl," you're probably going to have some mixed feelings with this song. Hopefully the background cheering ("What? Uh uh! What what? Uh uh!") in the second to last chorus is able to bring you back to enjoying it if the bridge threw you for a loop.
Track 4: "Make Me Like You"
Let me just get this out of the way: I. Love. This. Song. I know I just said that each section of "Where Would I Be?" shines, but each section of "Make Me Like You" shines even brighter. This was the second single for This Is What The Truth Feels Like, & that was no mistake.
The verses are fast-paced, & if you love Gwen's tone, you'll love them. The pre-chorus is probably the best on the album (& you know that I love this album's pre-choruses.) The chorus is made up of two sections that I like to call "Make Me Like You" & "Missing You," because this song could have had either of these two titles. The line I have the most fun singing is "I'm so mad at you, cause now you got me missing youuuu!" Throughout this album, Gwen ends each of her lines in such fun ways, you can't help but have a good time. The ahh's in the background of the chorus are what complete this perfect pop package (say that 5 times fast.) This might be my favorite track from the album just for the pure enjoyment I have while listening to it. It's impossible to start listening to this song in a bad mood & not end up smiling by the time it's over. The way her voice cracks on the lyric "I really like you, but I'm so scared" is enough to brighten your entire day (it's an upbeat vocal crack, not a sad Adele one!) "Make Me Like You" is undeniably pop, undeniably fun, & undeniably Gwen Stefani. I have nothing else to say.
Track 5: "Truth"
"Truth" is where This Is What The Truth Feels Like gets it title, & it's definitely a worthy title-track, but with that said, I have to agree with the choice not to make it a single.
Yep, I heard another artist in this song. This time, the beginning of "Truth" reminded me of the beginning of Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" from his album Purpose (2015). They both start with the ticking of a clock, & the airy vocals of the oohs that start out "Truth" sound like they were pulled straight out of numerous Bieber tracks. Of course, Gwen sounds nothing like Justin in this song, but I couldn't ignore the similarities, & if you're familiar with Purpose--which you should be, it's a great album--then you might not be able to ignore them either. However, once the verses start, you won't be thinking about Justin anymore. Gwen sounds great in this song, performing a softer, more emotional vocal. The chorus, like other tracks, is repetitive, but Gwen pulls it off yet again. It wouldn't be hard to assume that Gwen has the biggest connection with this song, considering the album's title was taken from its lyrics. You can tell that it means something to her. It's a track about Gwen's post-divorce relationship, & it's good to hear that she's "feeling it." Like I said, I think they made the right choice to not release "Truth" as a single, mostly because I don't think that the current radio environment is very welcoming of more laid back performances like this. The radio definitely favors upbeat tracks, & while this song does have a nice build to it, I don't think it would have been given much airtime. I could be completely wrong, however, since I haven't listened to the radio in a very long time. If you're not a fan of the "commercial" sound that's to be expected of a pop album such as this, I think "Truth" will make it in your top 3 favorite tracks.
Track 6: "Used To Love You"
This was the first single that was released from This Is What The Truth Feels Like, & like the other singles, that wasn't a mistake. As always, I love the pre-chorus. Most people think that a pop song is all about the chorus, but those people aren't me. If a pre-chorus isn't good, I've stopped caring before the chorus even starts. This pre-chorus is great:
Pulling back out the driveway
You go, I'll stay
You can keep all the memories
I thought I was the best thing that ever happened to you
I thought you loved me the most
However, between the pre-chorus & chorus, Stefani utters an 'ohh' (or maybe it's an 'uhh') that has been manipulated in post a bit too much for my liking. I'm not entirely against vocal effects--especially in pop songs--but this one just seems out of place on this track. "Used To Love You" makes up for it later on in the song, though.
My spelling of "uSEd" in my tweet was my way of saying that I'm a huge fan of the vocal crack Gwen performs on that line. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. The chorus starts off just a little weak (seriously, though, only a little), but by the time "Oh oh oh oh I uSEd to love you" comes around, you're singing along at the top of your lungs. I'm a big fan of the synths used in the track. My only real complaint about this song is that there's not really a bridge. I mean, technically there is one, but it's one of those bridges where the artist just breaks down the chorus & then sings the chorus again at full speed. I enjoy a good bridge, so these types kind of feel like a cop-out to me. Still, this is a great song. I kind of want to get into a relationship with someone just so that I can then break up with them & sing this song very loudly as I drive home alone.
And that's as far as I got before I realized listening to the album is way more fun than reviewing it. You can finish this review for me by adding a comment with your favorite & least favorite track(s).
I love you, Gwen. If Blake ever screws up, I'll be waiting right here.