You’re Rare: Gwen Stefani’s 10 Best Deep Cuts
Once dubbed the "Queen of Confessional Pop" by Rolling Stone, Gwen Stefani has never been shy about baring her soul and going with the flow when it comes to her music.
After making her rambunctious debut with iconic American ska band No Doubt in 1992 (she joined the group as an original member in 1986 after being invited to sing lead vocals by her brother Eric, who was trying to form a ska group), the edgy yet sensitive "Orange County Girl" set her sights on solo pop stardom in the early 2000s, a project which culminated in a delicious "guilty pleasure" pop album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., in 2004.
The dance-pop debut launched Gwen into mainstream radio superstardom—movie roles and fashion lines followed suit—and resulted in a string of undeniably catchy chart-topping hits. (She also taught us all how to spell "bananas," bless her soul.) Two years later, she followed up her breakout proper pop star moment with a sophomore album, The Sweet Escape, and after a ten year break from solo music endeavors (save for a one-off single here and there) the singer-songwriter came back swinging in 2016 with This Is What the Truth Feels Like, possibly her most autobiographical record yet, following the dissolution of her marriage to Bush rocker Gavin Rossdale.
Throughout her decade-plus career as a solo artist outside of her work with No Doubt, Gwen has proven her chops for penning a hit time and time again, from "Hollaback Girl" to "The Sweet Escape" to "Misery." But for all her polished, radio-primed singles, the pop-rock bombshell has a whole catalogue of underappreciated album tracks ripe for the playlist picking.
Below, discover Gwen Stefani's ten best album deep cuts, from tragically underutilized ballads like "The Real Thing" to oft-forgotten jams like "Fluorescent." So, what you waiting for? Get listenin'!
"The Real Thing," Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
It's a crying shame Gwen didn't release this sweeping, twinkling Nellee Hooper-produced electro-lullaby as a single back in 2004-2005. After a string of smash hit Love. Angel. Music. Baby. singles, from "Rich Girl" to "Cool," the shimmering, zippy electronics, breathy coos and surfy guitar riffs of "The Real Thing," one of the artist's most delectable ballads, make this track instantly infectious—and one of Gwen's most underappreciated love songs ever. (As an added treat, check out the delicate lo-fi rework on the Wendy and Lisa Slow Jam Mix.)
"Where Would I Be?," This Is What the Truth Feels Like
This upbeat reggae and ska-infused pop concoction (think MySpace-era Lily Allen) marks one of the most delightful and bright moments on Gwen's long awaited third solo album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like. The Greg Kurstin-crafted bop flickers and pops like a beach bonfire, culminating in a melodic, contagious burst-of-sunshine hook and a cheerleader chant chorus with slight nods to "Hollaback Girl."
"Fluorescent," The Sweet Escape
Gwen pants, gasps and cannot believe how lucky-in-love she is on this sweet, sultry, sassy Missing Persons-esque new wave stomper off her sophomore record. While not necessarily one of the singer-songwriter's most memorable songs, there's an unquestionable pleasantness and playful air to this deep album cut, which resurrects the weirdo dance-pop of the '80s as a neon-lit ode to late night lovin'.
"Danger Zone," Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
A surprisingly heart-wrenching peek into the complex relationship between Gwen and her ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, this rushing electro-rock anthem packs a seriously intimate gut punch. Rumored to be about the pop star's discovery of her beau's lovechild with fashion designer Pearl Lowe, Daisy, in 2004—"I can't imagine how hard it must be to be you / Adopting all your history, it's hard being me too / Are your secrets where you left them? / 'Cause now your ghosts are mine as well"—the rollicking new wave banger pulls back the curtain and offers listeners an almost too-personal look at the skeletons in Gwen's L.A.M.B. couture-packed closet.
"Truth," This Is What the Truth Feels Like
The title track off Gwen's latest record, "Truth" captures the inimitable giddy excitement of that butterflies-in-your-belly moment you realize you've fallen in love with someone (and in The Voice coach's case, that'd be country crooner Blake Shelton). A relaxed, earnest mid-tempo electro pop song, the track is driven by a twinkling guitar hook amid a glossy haze of lightly moody beats and vulnerable, heart-baring lyrics.
"Serious," Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
If pop songs often compare falling in love to drug addiction, Gwen bucks the narcotic trend on this hypnotic synth-pop bop, referring instead to her romantic condition as a medical affliction. Over a sexy, bouncy '80s synthline, the singer laments "coming down with something" as she begs her lover for some of that sweet, sweet medicine: Her prescription is your kissin' and boy, you've got her wanting it.
"Rare," This Is What the Truth Feels Like
The closing track off This Is What the Truth Feels Like, "Rare" is a rare track indeed when it comes to Gwen's discography. Folksy and surfy and twangy all at once, the dreamy, blissed out dance song sounds like it could have been plucked off one of No Doubt's later records thanks to its galloping beat and instantly likeable genre-busting sound. Not sold? Just press play—Gwen's effervescent, rising vocals on the tune's atmospheric hook will be stuck swirling in your head all day, no doubt.
"U Started It," The Sweet Escape
This Neptunes-produced track is a mid-tempo plea for peace. On the melodic, synth- and pizzicato string-driven song, Gwen tiredly lays down her arms and tries to move forward, asking her beau to do the same after a silly quarrel (as all lovers occasionally fall into) over a soundscape of blissfully chill rhythms and hip hop beats reminiscent of early Madonna.
"Bubble Pop Electric," Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
One of Gwen's most musically unique cuts, like, ever, this '50s drive-in sex kitten power pop banger represents Ms. Stefani at her most eccentric, playful and, uh, turned on. Featuring rapper-producer whiz Andre 3000, a freaked-out soundscape of futuristic doo-wop harmonies (not unlike something Prince may have crafted) and popping, percolating beats, "Bubble Pop Electric" is a slice of frenetic doin' it pop that sounds as anxiously frantic as a teen on prom night.
"Wonderful Life," The Sweet Escape
A fuzzy synth-ballad which effectively resurrects the sonic specters of new wave maestros like Depeche Mode and New Order, "Wonderful Life" finds Gwen in familiar territory: singing wistfully about her doomed first love with No Doubt band mate Tony Kanal. "I thought of you again today / Reminded me how with time I've changed / If you only knew what you gave to me," she recalls in a soothing, emotive tone, as if reading from a diary entry. And then there's that undeniable hook: "It's a wonderful, wonderful life." If "Don't Speak" found the singer grappling with her freshly wounded heart, "Wonderful Life" sees Gwen come full circle, even if it's a bittersweet symphony.
Gwen Stefani Through the Years: