Divorce and new love put Gwen Stefani back in drive with album, road show
Imagine if Gwen Stefani hadn’t split with her husband of 13 years, Gavin Rossdale. Sure, one of music’s most promising pairs might still be giving the world new relationship goals, and Stefani wouldn’t be admitting that divorce is “the worst thing that can happen to me besides death,” as she confessed during an interview with Michigan’s Between the Lines newspaper earlier this year.
But then, had the divorce papers never been signed, had Stefani never experienced true heartache, there’d be no “Used to Love You,” the lead single from her latest release, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like.”
No pain, no gain, they say.
Stefani’s gain was immense. Though the release doesn’t stray much from her earlier solo work — pop behemoths such as “Hollaback Girl” and “Rich Girl,” for instance — the lyrics to “Used to Love You,” at the very least, prove that she can still ravage your heart simply by pouring out her own. The single was as transparent as her self-reflective songs for the band No Doubt she fronts. As the midtempo tearjerker dishes on the collapse of her marriage, you’d swear you were reading straight from the pages of Stefani’s diary.
You get the sense that’s the case during Stefani’s first studio album in 10 years, the project that put her back on the road and has her heading to Metro Detroit with her “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” show at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. Opening that night will be Eve, Stefani’s early ’00s collaborator.
If this show is anything like their July 19 stop in New Jersey, you’re in for a nostalgic treat. According to Billboard magazine, the ladies performed both their 2001 collaboration “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and “Rich Girl.”
And to think a tour almost wasn’t in the cards.
“I never thought I would be able to go back on tour again,” Stefani admitted during a video segment preceding her N.J. stage arrival, Billboard reported.
If you’ve checked any of the entertainment tabs recently, you know it’s new beau Blake Shelton who has reinvigorated the pop singer — “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” doesn’t try to hide that fact. Nor has Stefani. During the album’s romantic coda, “Rare,” she waxes poetic about a special someone: “Do you really think you want to make some new memories with me?”
In March, Shelton, whom she met while coaching TV’s “The Voice,” tweeted about the song, deeming it his “favorite song” on the album. Stefani wrote back, “Hummmm really? Wonder who that one is about?”
Say what you will about the relationship, but look what it’s accomplished: Stefani is back on the road. Back to recording. Back to making music that sounds authentic — the opposite of what she’d conceptualized last year, when she worked with go-to producer Pharrell Williams on a never-released project that was to feature then-singles “Spark the Fire” and “Baby Don’t Lie.”
Just months after those songs failed to, well, spark any fire, Stefani and Rossdale’s divorce was announced, derailing the project. Weeks later, the singer released the emotional video for “Used to Love You.” Clearly, it resonated. Upon its release in March, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” took the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart — a first as a solo artist.
“There was a moment right before I did ‘The Voice’ ... where I was desperate to have new music,” she told Between the Lines, “and it took a little earthquake to be like, ‘OK, let’s get some perspective here.
“ ‘You’ve already had the longest career. You’re so blessed to have any of this and any of this that happens after this is literally icing on the cake.’ ”
Chris Azzopardi is a Canton-based freelance writer.
7 p.m. Aug. 2
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston