THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE Turning her public pain into a stunningly personal and musical comeback.
Gwen Stefani really should have called her new album “Silver Lining.”
It was only a year ago that Stefani was struggling. Her 13-year marriage to rocker Gavin Rossdale had ended in a very public divorce and she was stuck in the middle of writer’s block — the main reason it’s been a decade between “The Sweet Escape” and her new solo album “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” (Interscope), as well as why she struggled through the recent No Doubt reunion.
But considering how well the album turned out and her seemingly happy relationship with her fellow coach on “The Voice,” Blake Shelton, it may have all been for the best.
“This Is What the Truth Feels Like” is a return to form, back to the fearless, boundary-pushing pop days of her platinum-selling “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” as a “Hollaback Girl.”
Stefani’s mix of trap beats and lush strings on the cool “Red Flag” shows off her inventiveness, while her collaboration with Fetty Wap on “Asking 4 It” strikes at the heart of pop radio. On “Naughty,” she mixes jazz, dance pop and sultry soul with sleek production help from J.R. Rotem.
Of course, the real focus here is on Stefani’s raw revelations about her private life — both the good and bad. She captures the aftermath of her divorce on the wrenching ballad “Used to Love You,” but regains her self-esteem by the end. She giddily sings about her surprise relationship with Shelton on the sunny “Make Me Like You,” her understandable apprehension fading as the joyous disco jam heats up.
And while “Me Without You” isn’t quite “Don’t Speak,” the kiss-off ballad does put things in the right perspective. “Now I’m me without you,” she declares. “And things about to get real good.” Truth.