There are a number of ways of dealing with writer’s block and each comes with varying degrees of success. Options include: a brisk walk around the park; necking half a bottle of whiskey; or experiencing the shattering, soul-destroying end of a relationship. Eternally youthful fashion-pop superstar Gwen Stefani – who turns 47 this year – has opted for the latter. Stefani’s third solo album was originally set for release in 2014 and had seen the erstwhile No Doubt ska-punk frontwoman working with a string of big names, including major chart players such as Calvin Harris, Charli XCX and Sia. Yet when her divorce from Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale was announced that same summer, Stefani decided to chuck the record as well as Rossdale, claiming the album “didn’t feel right”.
It was a smart move, as Stefani’s got pretty good form when it comes to break-up records. Her last, No Doubt’s 1995 release ‘Tragic Kingdom’, detailed her split from the band’s bass player Tony Kanal and sold in excess of 16 million copies worldwide. Which is a decent return on a few glum months spent sniffling into a cushion, watching repeat episodes of Friends and eating chocolate ice-cream for breakfast.
Twenty-one years later and her second journey into splitsville is an altogether glossier and more redemptive affair. Stefani – who’s now happily dating country singer Blake Shelton – channels her heartache into soaring studio pop. Chrvches-lite opener ‘Misery’ sees her waggling a finger at Rossdale for his philandering ways: “You’re in so much trouble” she scolds, before the candy-coated future-disco beats kick in.
Over the album’s 12 tracks, Stefani doesn’t mope once – in fact, a lot of the time she sounds like she doesn’t give a s**t. ‘Where Would I Be’ and ‘Send Me A Picture’ say it with Disney dancehall, while ‘Me Without You’ is the closest she comes to balladry, singing “I don’t need you/not a little bit” over polished trip-hop. The standout ‘Asking 4 It’ even features the distinctive drawl of ‘Trap Queen’ rapper Fetty Wap, backing up her nonchalant divorcée swagger. We can’t wait for the Blake Shelton break-up record, c.2037.