Back in the '90s -- you know, that decade we're all overly nostalgic about -- Gwen Stefani was the ska girl next door. The lyrics she penned for No Doubt were the perfect in-between solution to the angsty songs of Alanis Morissette and the over-sexed girl power screams of the Spice Girls.
While many of us middle-schoolers had no idea what we were belting out when we blasted "Spiderwebs" and "Don't Speak" on our boomboxes, as adults, Stefani's words have hit us so hard that Tragic Kingdom would quickly become full of forever anthems.
Between her seven full-length albums with No Doubt and two (soon to be three) solo ventures, Stefani has delivered some perfect songs for dealing with heartbreak. We're looking back at the nine that helped us the most and, in turn, may just help the 46-year-old singer amid her divorce from husband of 13 years, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale.
If you sense a lot of foreshadowing, well, we didn't write these lyrics.
1. "Used to Love You"
OK, so this song is literally (well, supposedly) about her split from Rossdale. That just makes it the perfect tune to top our list, because it is equal parts relevant and cathartic. You wear that broken heart on your sleeve, girl. It works for Adele, and it can work for you!
Key Lyrics: I don't know why I cry / I think it's 'cause I remembered for the first time / Since I hated you / That I used to love you.
2. "Don't Speak"
The majority of No Doubt's 1995 breakout, Tragic Kingdom, came following Stefani's breakup with bandmate Tony Kanal. While not every track is about their split, the ones that are about their failed romance pack some of the hardest punches on the entire album. That rings especially true for "Don't Speak," one of No Doubt's biggest songs ever. The direct response to Stefani's split from Kanal is a rallying cry for the freshly brokenhearted.
Key Lyrics: Don't speak / I know what you're thinking / I don't need your reasons / Don't tell me 'cause it hurts.
Stefani and Rossdale had a well-documented rocky relationship even before their divorce, having broken up at least once prior to their 2002 wedding. "Ex-Girlfriend" -- the pointed, up-tempo first single off No Doubt's 2000 album, Return to Saturn -- features an obvious reference to Bush's song "Dead Meat," as well as an admission by Stefani as the jealous type and very accurate insight into why trying to change a lover always backfires. If anything, this song ranks high up there as the one Stefani should belt out in her car now whenever she thinks of Rossdale. It applied when she wrote it 15 years ago, and it applies now.
Key Lyrics: I kinda always knew I'd end up your ex-girlfriend / I hope I hold a special place with the rest of them / And you know it makes me sick to be on that list / But I should have thought of that before we kissed.
4. "Simple Kind of Life"
Following "Ex-Girlfriend," this second single off Return of Saturn is heartbreaking on a different level. Written before she married Rossdale, the tune marks only the second song Stefani wrote entirely by herself. It's a plea for her then-boyfriend to finally settle down and make Stefani his wife. While in the end, the Orange County native ultimately decides she appreciates her freedom, at the very least, this tune could serve as a Monday morning quarterback warning for what was to come after she did, indeed, wed Rossdale.
Return to Saturn is essentially a string of songs that Stefani can look back on and say, 'See, self? I told you so.'
Key Lyrics: And all I wanted was the simple things / A simple kind of life / And all I needed was a simple man / So I could be a wife.
5. "Happy Now?"
One of the lesser-known Tragic Kingdom tracks, "Happy Now?" is a not-so-gentle reminder that giving up on a girl because you're a big scared baby can be an epic mistake. Time to move on!
Key Lyrics: You killed the pair / Now only one is breathing / There's no looking back / This time I mean it.
6. "Let's Get Back"
If searing reminders of a currently painful situation are what you're looking for, let us point you towards the second track off No Doubt's self-titled 1992 major label debut. The song is about wanting to get back together with an ex despite the fact that the relationship has clearly drifted far from its starting point. "Let's Get Back" was co-written by Stefani's bandmates, Kanal, Tom Dumont and Eric Stefani -- brother of the band's frontwoman and one of the group's original founders who wrote or co-wrote every song during No Doubt's early days -- and is a direct line into most human's brains immediately after a breakup.
Key Lyrics: When I think back / we had a beautiful relationship /But I see the future / what's there for me is devastation from you / Don't you think I can see / you're changing on me.
7. "Early Winter"
We put this one towards the end of the list so you could save your tears -- hopefully. This 2008 song, off Stefani's second solo album, The Sweet Escape, is all about knowing a relationship is ending, and it hit around the same time rumors were flying in the last decade about her marriage to Rossdale hitting its breaking point. The metaphors are gorgeous, the song as a whole is appropriately heartbreaking, and seven years later, it's also come full circle for Stefani.
Key Lyrics: Why? / Why do you act so stupid? / Why? / You know that I'm always right / It looks like an early winter for us / It hurts and I can't remember sunlight.
Sure, this song is about a guy who won't go away, not the one who got away, but the impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head single off Tragic Kingdom still serves as a good reminder of how technology has advanced in 20 years: Your iPhone now has a block feature. Perfect for stalkers and exes alike!
Key Lyrics: Sorry I'm not home right now / I'm walking into spiderwebs / So leave a message / And I'll call you back.
9. "Settle Down"
This track marked the first time we heard new music from No Doubt in over a decade. The first single off 2012's Push and Shove, the tune is about Stefani adjusting to unfamiliar circumstances, which can be interpreted as romantic or about life in general. Either way, the message is clear: "Nothing's gonna knock this girl down." This is the best reminder Stefani can give anyone, including herself.
Key Lyrics: No big deal (I can handle it) / It'll bounce off me (I can handle it) / Been around the block before, doesn't matter anymore / Here we go again (Are you kidding me?) / Are you insane? (Are you kidding me?)
Now, don't break Stefani's heart, Blake Shelton. You've seen what kind of biting lyrics she's capable of.
Celebrating Tragic Kingdom's 20-year anniversary, Stefani told ET earlier this year that writing tracks for No Doubt's 1995 breakout helped her discover that she "could write songs." Find out what else she had to say about that "magical time period" in the video below.
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