Possibly their greatest single, "Spiderwebs" (Tragic Kingdom, 1995) was the first No Doubt song I ever heard. It was unlike any song I knew. Then again, I'd been in a media vacuum since 1990, too short of money and time to buy CDs or listen to them.
"Spiderwebs" alerted me to the new culture in place at the second half of the '90s. It was more subtle, more refined, and more feminine than what I'd seen in 1989 and 1990. Above all, it was more feminine. By 1995, the transition to a behaviour-based society (rather than a production-based one) was decisive. If you could make people feel good just by being around you, you had it made. Such had always been true before, but now the culture was based on that power of charm and innocence. To be innocent, you had to be a teenager, or else you really had to know what you were doing.
Gwen caught my ear with her girlish strains in "Spiderwebs". She hit again with "Don't Speak" - a surprisingly direct song after the evasive "Spiderwebs". I thought "Don't Speak" was a little overdone, but it was very popular with the women I knew; I don't doubt it was a bigger hit than "Spiderwebs".
"Just a Girl" was the next song I noticed. Its irony wasn't lost on me; I wonder if, generally, people got the message. After all, many people don't even listen to the words of a song. Rather, it's the rhythm, the instrumentals, and the actual sound of the voice they pick up on. No Doubt about it: "Just a Girl" was kind of catchy.
No Doubt left my radar in the late '90s. I didn't notice them again until "Hella Good" (Rock Steady, 2001). I confess I didn't recognize Gwen's voice - I thought it was Madonna. I maintain that Gwen sounds like Madonna in that song, and that the song itself sounds like one Madonna would do.
Other songs - like "Hey Baby" (Rock Steady, 2001) or "Simple Kind of Life" (Return of Saturn, 2000) continued to catch my attention when they came on the radio. However, No Doubt had lost control of the culture; they were just riding along with it by then, scoring a hit now and then. They didn't really grab my attention again until "It's My Life" (The Singles, 2003). Of course, "It's My Life" was by the group Talk Talk from the 80s. Gwen's vocals definitely did the song justice, but the song itself is so good that No Doubt had a sure thing making it a hit (again).
I haven't heard from No Doubt for a long time now. I have their CD The Singles from 2003, but I haven't listened to it in years. With kids (who are now 8 and 11) and a business, I haven't had much time.
Out of the blue, someone mentioned Gwen Stefani last week. Hence, the drawing. I would have gotten to her eventually, though. As you notice, I often talk about artists from my past. Gwen's been around long enough, she belongs here.