In order to maintain relevance for several decades in the ever-changing music game, it’s important for musicians to master the art of reinvention. One such artist who has this down to a science is Gwen Stefani who burst onto the scene as the rock goddess frontwoman of No Doubt, before going solo and dominating the pop charts. And now she’s back with a brand new album, aptly titled Let Me Reintroduce Myself.
Considering nineties and noughties nostalgia are all the rage right now, it would make sense for the chameleon that is Gwen Stefani to hit us with a new era.
She tells me that although her album comes from a place of nostalgia, she’s super excited to be releasing new tunes in 2021 as so much has changed, but in a good way.
“Music is so different nowadays, you don’t have so many boundaries, you just have access to so much music,” she said.
“We were just an imitation generation,” she added, which couldn’t be more true – fun fact, her iconic 2004 bop ‘Rich Girl’ is a remake of a 1993 song of the same name by Louchie Lou & Michie One, which is, in turn, an adaptation of the Fiddler on the Roof song ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ – but while Gwen was once an artist looking for inspiration from the people before her, she has now arrived at a place where she’s the inspirer.
Gwen Stefani in the music video for her iconic track, ‘Hollaback Girl’.
“I have all these songs out there and I have no idea if anyone’s even listening to them until I see it on a TikTok thing or I go to a concert and they say that they listen to it,” Gwen Stefani says. “I just want to make music because I love it so much, it makes me feel so good when I write a song. It helps my brain and my mental state to be able to get things off my chest through a song.”
This is also true where her style is concerned, as Instagram is flooded with throwback pics from the lush looks that she donned in the ’90s and ’00s.
“[Being a style icon] makes me feel great, I love it! It doesn’t get old for me,” she said. “It makes me so happy that all the natural looks I did that nobody helped me with that I pieced together ended up being people’s Halloween costumes. That’s when you know you really made it, when you’re boiled down to a costume [laughs].”
The music video for the title track from her new album sees her recreate some of her most iconic looks and it’s an absolute treat for longtime fans such as myself to take a trip down memory lane, soundtracked by her new banger of a song.
“I got to dress up as my old mes! That was super emotional,” she says of donning her old lewks for the vid.
“I feel like I keep recycling myself, I will wear the same thing over and over, but different versions of it, and the same goes with the music,” she said.
“I’ve always liked the same things, for the most part, and whenever I slip them back out, I guess they sound like evolved versions and a lot of it has to do with who I’ve collaborated with at the time. My best work that I’ve ever done is when I collaborate. When I got to finally work outside of No Doubt, and I don’t say that as like ‘Ugh, I FINALLY got to work outside No Doubt,’ we were so homegrown, we didn’t even have producers or writers helping us for a long time. But when I got to work outside the band with some professional songwriters, it just changed my songwriting and it evolved me in the best way possible.”
Some of Gwen’s greatest moments have come from her collaborations with other artists and she says that she’s at her best when she’s combining her musical talents with those of folks from other genres.
“The first time that I worked outside the band with Pharrell and The Neptunes, it was this crazy culture collision that didn’t seem like it would make much sense at all but it made all the sense in the world. Me and Pharrell are from two different worlds but at the same time we’re so similar. There’s always the unexpected person, like going into the studio with Akon, and why would I be in the studio with him? That doesn’t seem like it would make any sense at all, but it made all the sense in the world. I just love to collaborate and to be able to do that with unbelievably gifted songwriters was amazing,” she said.
“Music feels like a place where we all meet in the middle, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, [a song] could be political or emotional or sad, happy, you could just land in that music and it’s a safe zone.”
Gwen Stefani in a promo piccy for her new tunes.
While COVID was an awful time for creatives in a financial sense, for Gwen it was an excellent time to power through with her new album, which is still a work in progress.
“The record is not finished yet, I have enough songs to put out two records at this point, but I just wanted to keep writing until I get to a place where I’m done,” she told me. “And that’s what’s so cool, I’m just releasing singles which I’ve never been allowed to do, and letting them just come out and still be writing, and that’s what these two songs are.”
Those two songs are the aforementioned title track and new single, ‘Slow Clap.’
“‘Let Me Reintroduce Myself’ is just a great way to say, ‘I’m gonna have new music coming! Here you go, if you want it, take it’,” she said.
“And ‘Slow Clap’ is a song that has such a good message about feeling like an underdog and conquering whatever that is. It has such good energy, it’s uptempo and the message just clearly spells out my life and what I’ve been going through. I just want to create music that brings joy and that is fun.”
Another huge bonus of COVID for Gwen was that she got to take a break from the constant pressure to dazzle us with her threads.
“I did enjoy the downtime with sweatsuits during COVID because you don’t realise it’s automatic that every time you leave the house, it’s like an opportunity, but it has been fun to wear camo every day and not care about that stuff,” she said.
I then brought up the fact that last year was the 20th anniversary of No Doubt album Return of Saturn and her reaction is visceral.
“I don’t like to think of that record ever, it’s totally a trigger for me because I had [pause]… Ugh, even now, when I say that, it hurts my heart,” she says.
“It was a really hard time in my life and the songs, for sure, trigger me and I think of the regrets I have. The songs just say so much in them, especially the ones that aren’t singles which people probably didn’t even listen to, but they were so revealing of things to come.”
Their subsequent album, Tragic Kingdom, however, holds more positive connotations for her.
“The other record that, I think had an anniversary, Tragic Kingdom, the week that that happened was really emotional, I didn’t know I was gonna care, because I’m not really an anniversary person. That’s not who I am, I don’t really care about that stuff. But when you watch everyone posting, you start to go, ‘Holy crap!'”
She also has quite the reaction when I refer to her as a feminist icon, having penned one of the most iconic girl power bops, ‘Just A Girl.’
“Oh my gosh, I don’t really look at myself [as a feminist icon],” she said. “I think that when you look back on all of the work and the history, of course now I can do that, I feel proud that I played the parts that I played. I always feel like I was just me, I didn’t try to be anything more than that. I think it’s interesting that a song that I wrote so innocently when I was 25-years-old can still stand the test of time. I feel proud!”
But just because Gwen Stefani has been slaying the music game since the ’90s, and continues to do so, doesn’t mean that she’s without her moments of self-doubt. Quite the opposite, in fact (which is iconic, considering she hails from a band called No Doubt).
“The longer I’m around, the more I doubt myself, the more I feel like nobody wants to hear it anymore,” she said. “The devil gets into my brain, I don’t want that to happen, but we all go through it. And ‘Slow Clap’ is that song, it’s about being clapped back to life. It’s like, ‘Hey, you did all this and you can do it again. It’s your voice, it’s your choice!'”
She concludes, “At the end of the day, nothing’s real except for what’s real to you.”
‘Let Me Reintroduce Myself’ and ‘Slow Clap’ by Gwen Stefani are both out now, and her new album is coming soon.
Matty Galea is the Entertainment Editor at Pedestrian who also dabbles in woo-woo stuff like astrology and crystals and has been penning horoscopes since the start of his career. He also Tweets about pop culture and astrology and posts spicy content on Instagram.