Gwen Ste­fani

‘This Is What the Truth Feels Like’

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Audiosyncracy - (MES­FIN FEKADU/AP Mu­sic Writer)

GWEN Ste­fani’s new solo al­bum is fun and catchy: the hooks are cute and lik­able, the beats will make your head bop and her voice is calm and cool.

But af­ter lis­ten­ing to it, you’re on to the next.

“This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” Ste­fani’s first solo al­bum in 10 years, isn’t mem­o­rable or dis­tinc­tive. It’s not that the songs are bad — be­cause they aren’t. But they aren’t good ei­ther. The 12 tracks are an OK batch of pop tunes that don’t re­veal much about Ste­fani, the singer or per­son.

Though the lyri­cal con­tent of some of the songs is deep, the tracks don’t drip with emo­tion. In­stead, the al­bum sounds tai­lor-made for ra­dio, and the songs lack in both orig­i­nal­ity and per­son­al­ity — a thing that’s usu­ally a spe­cialty of Ste­fani’s.

For all the talk that the al­bum delves into her per­sonal life, it’s hard to tell. The con­tent, even when it’s about heart­break and ex-hus­band Gavin Ross­dale, has a bub­ble-gum feel. It’s as if Ste­fani’s hid­ing be­hind the songs’ beat and hook, and her vo­cal tonal­ity is on cruise con­trol through­out — whether the sub­ject is heartache or hap­pi­ness.

“Truth Feels Like” fea­tures a num­ber of hit­mak­ing pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing Greg Kurstin (Sia, Pink, Lily Allen), J.R. Rotem (Ja­son Derulo, “Em­pire” TV se­ries), Star­gate (Ri­hanna, Ne-Yo) and Mattman & Robin (Tay­lor Swift, Se­lena Gomez).

But all of that ta­lent might be the rea­son the al­bum doesn’t rise above av­er­age.

The project does have some high­lights: “Send Me a Pic­ture,” which is likely about boy-

friend Blake Shel­ton, sounds a bit more ex­per­i­men­tal than the other tracks. “Red Flags” and “Ask­ing 4 It,” which fea­tures rap­per Fetty Wap, are high points, too.

But songs like “Naughty” and the sin­gles “Used to Love You” and “Make Me Like You” don’t feel con­nected to Ste­fani — it’s as if an­other pop star could sing the tracks and you wouldn’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence. That’s dis­ap­point­ing for Ste­fani, a singer who is usu­ally a stand-out on the pop mu­sic scene.

Holla back girl when you make your next al­bum.

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