Gwen Stefani, "This Is What the Truth Feels Like" (Interscope Records)
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 hit-making 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 boyfriend 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.