Gwen Stefani ended a decade-long hiatus with a brand new album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like. Tackling heartbreak honestly is what helped launch No Doubt and is what the singer returns to with ease following her divorce from Bush’s Gavin Rossdale. In honor of her new material, we asked our readers to vote for the best Gwen Stefani songs, from both her time in No Doubt and her solo career. Here are the results.
“What You Waiting For?” (2004)
Stefani has never shied away from being too real or too meta in her lyrics, which is why her introductory single as a solo pop artist was so effective. In the quirky, eccentric “What You Waiting For?” Stefani takes listeners on a deep dive into her psyche as she explores all her fears and woes about going solo and overcoming writer’s block.
“Bathwater,” No Doubt (2000)
Cheeky and a bit theatrical, No Doubt’s “Bathwater” slows down the typically adrenaline-fueled structure of No Doubt’s songs in favor of syrup-y brass that makes the a pretty gross metaphor for accepting a lover’s faults (“I love to wash in your old bathwater”) into a romantically enticing bit of poetry.
“Just a Girl,” No Doubt (1995)
While railing against female stereotypes and sexism, Stefani crafted one of the catchiest rock singles of the Nineties with “Just a Girl.” The singer uses a hyperfeminine delivery before it transforms into a more vicious voice over the increasingly rapid, retro beat.
“Simple Kind of Life,” No Doubt (2000)
Moody and lo-fi, “Simple Kind of Life” cuts deep. Stefani explores the inner-conflict she faces as someone who wants to be a wife and have kids but also values her independence. It is one of the rawest, saddest songs No Doubt ever released, especially as Stefani confesses to sometimes wishing for a “mistake” to make her pregnant.
“Hollaback Girl” (2004)
Stefani’s solo career was already off to a good start thanks to the first two singles off Love. Angel. Music. Baby., but the stomping banger “Hollaback Girl” solidified her new pop reign. Written with assistance from the Neptunes, the semi-ridiculous single that taught everyone how to spell “bananas” was a response to Courtney Love calling Stefani a cheerleader.
“Spiderwebs,” No Doubt (1995)
Stefani and ex-boyfriend Tony Kanal produced the phone-stalker anthem with the dark, reggae-infused opener off Tragic Kingdom. The heavy but catchy song is a ferocious attack against the malignant invasion of her personal space by a frequent caller who won’t take a hint. As was the mark of many Tragic Kingdom tracks, the bridge is a hypnotizing, surprising moment before the booming, punchy outro.
“Sunday Morning,” No Doubt (1995)
Stefani is a powerhouse on the raucous, bitter single off Tragic Kingdom. From the moment Adrian Young’s opening drum solo builds up, the song grows more and more massive and searing. During the bridge, Stefani perfectly hits an affected whine that builds to the snarling delivery of the final chorus.
“Early Winter” (2006)
Working with Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley, Stefani’s “Early Winter” is a gorgeously subtle exercise in power-pop for the singer. She’s candid and honest in the lyrics that deal with betrayal. The ballad is also one of her most exceptional vocal deliveries, especially during the crescendoing bridge that she tackles with delicate power.
“Don’t Speak,” No Doubt (1995)
“Don’t Speak” is not only one of No Doubt’s best, it is also one of the most incredible rock ballads of the Nineties. Stefani is intoxicatingly dramatic (“I can see us dying/Are we?”) on the iconic song that tackled the end of a seven-year relationship with No Doubt’s bassist Tony Kanal. The song was written before the band blasted into fame with Tragic Kingdom, so by the time the single and video came out, it encompassed a new meaning: The video was an intimate look at band tension as Stefani becomes the focal point during shows and photoshoots as the group’s lead singer.
Stefani’s “Cool” is both sparkling and heartbreaking, a specialization of the star. The single was the most simple, straightforward track from her solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and highlighted the type of bitingly reflective capabilities she has always had when tackling the issue of remaining in a band with ex-boyfriend Tony Kanal. “Cool” is the epilogue to “Don’t Speak,” exposing once and for all that time heals (most) wounds.