Gwen Stefani’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like Is a Glittery Confessional That Will Take You Straight Back to the ’90s

Melissa Brooks of the Aquadolls is here to say: "Gwen is back!"

Getting an early listen to my favorite artist’s new album is like getting an early Christmas or birthday present. So when I got the news that I would be writing about Gwen Stefani’s third solo album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like, I almost threw my phone across the room in excitement. My first concert, in fourth grade, was her hometown show at The Anaheim Pond in Anaheim, California — on her 2005 Harajuku Lovers Tour. I grew up listening to No Doubt; I have all the CDs, the vinyl, and still even have an awesome poster of her framed on my wall. I love that she’s a California girl — just like me. She’s so honest and relatable, and her energy and drive have inspired me for so many years.

Leading up to the release of her album, Stefani put out the track “Used to Love You” late last year. I watched a live performance, and I instantly knew: Gwen is back! The sincerity in her voice and the empowering yet sad way she sings each lyric brings me back to the 1990s, giving me “Don’t Speak” (1995) flashbacks. “Used to Love You” makes me feel like I’m a little kid jumping on the bed, feeling angry about a heartbreak that didn’t even happen to me. I blast this song every time it comes on the radio and sing it at the top of my lungs. The other people on the road give me dirty looks, but I don’t care. I can’t hold back my love for this song! It’s just too heartbreakingly good. My heart wrenches for her as she sings, “Oh, oh, oh, oh/I used to love you!” Sometimes heartbreak leads to incredible inspiration, and she nailed it with this tune.

The first track on the album, “Misery,” starts everything off with a bang. “You’re like drugs to me,” she sings, and then the chorus explodes into an anthemic boom. I love the raw lyrics. She holds nothing back, and it truly shows: “Enough of the suffering, put me out of my misery,” she cries. The second track, “Favorite,” has seriously cool production. I hear water droplets, a synth — which reminds me of a twisted lullaby — and reverbed drums, which make the song sound psychedelic and trippy. “Where Would I Be?”, the third track, blends old No Doubt vibes with jazz. The song features an up-tempo reggae beat, almost ska pop. The bridge features a rap-like verse that has nostalgic “Hollaback Girl” feels and makes me super happy. “Where would I be, boy, if you didn’t love me?” she asks. When “Hollaback Girl” came out in 2004, my parents bought me Love. Angel. Music. Baby. I had never heard a song so explicit and wild in my life. I remember dancing with my elementary school friends, singing into our hairbrushes: “This shit is bananas!”

Gwen has experienced so much since 2004 — and since her previous release, The Sweet Escape, which came out nearly ten years ago. While she questions herself and the people around her on this new record, it seems as though she has fixed the hole in her heart — perhaps mended by her The Voice co-star, singer Blake Shelton.

The fourth track, “Make Me Like You,” is certainly my favorite. This song was released a few weeks ago, and I instantly fell in love. It has everything I want from a great track: catchy melodies, relatable lyrics, a funky bass line and a super feel-good vibe. Again, this song takes me straight back to the 1990s. Her lyrics are so positive and they make me feel like I’m riding down PCH in a convertible with the wind blowing my hair around, holding hands with someone that I love. “I could get used to this/It’s getting harder to leave it, your lips on my lips,” she sings, confessing that she can’t be without her new lover. The happy feel of the song is reminiscent of the Cardigans’ 1996 song “Lovefool.” I seriously feel like I’ve taken a time machine back to the mid-’90s — that I’m sporting platform flip-flops, temporary butterfly tattoos and the innocence of a fresh romance. This banging track sums up the album’s overall carefree and honest feeling.

Another album favorite is “Asking 4 It,” featuring hip-hop artist Fetty Wap. It reminds of a sugar-sweet Rihanna sipping on strawberry champagne — and it has a super awesome chorus. While listening to it, I had to stand up and dance, because it feels like a fun club track with naughty hints of sexual desire. The last song on the album, “Rare,” features more guitars mixed with psychedelic synths that swirl in and out of the speakers. It sounds like an absolute dream and takes me back to shopping at Limited Too for newsboy hats and sparkly sunglasses. “You’re so good and you don’t even know it/You’re rare,” Gwen’s voice rides its way around the beautiful melody. This song is like disco on acid.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like is totally freaking awesome. After listening to the full album, the title makes complete sense, because Stefani is being so honest about herself and her desires in each song. Each track is a glittery confessional filled with nostalgia that leaves me feeling incredibly powerful and in love. I love this record, and everyone should definitely get a copy! As a long-time fan, I am super proud of Gwen and am going to listen to this album on repeat for the next ten years. I’ve been in love with her for so many years, and her incredible presence, spirituality and energy has inspired me to be the artist that I am today. You go, Gwen!

Melissa Brooks is the lead singer and songwriter of the Southern California-based alternative rock band the Aquadolls. From touring with Kate Nash and opening for Jenny Lewis, to playing festivals with Weezer and Cat Power, Brooks has been making noise in the California scene with her carefree energy and positive spirit. She formed the band in the summer of 2012 and has cultivated a fan base with her songs about love, hate and female empowerment.