Gwen Stefani’s new solo album is fun and catchy: The hooks are cute and likable; the beats will make your head bop, and her voice is calm and cool.

But after listening to it, you’re on to the next.

“This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” Stefani’s first solo album in 10 years, isn’t memorable or distinctive. It’s not that the songs are bad — because they aren’t. But they aren’t good either. The 12 tracks are an OK batch of pop tunes that don’t reveal much about Stefani, the singer or person.

Though the lyrical content of some of the songs is deep, the tracks don’t drip with emotion. Instead, the album sounds tailor-made for radio, and the songs lack in both originality and personality — a thing that’s usually a specialty of Stefani’s.

For all the talk that the album delves into her personal life, it’s hard to tell. The content, even when it’s about heartbreak and ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, has a bubble-gum feel. It’s as if Stefani’s hiding behind the songs’ beat and hook, and her vocal tonality is on cruise control throughout — whether the subject is heartache or happiness.

“Truth Feels Like” features a number of hit-making producers, including Greg Kurstin (Sia, Pink, Lily Allen), J.R. Rotem (Jason Derulo, “Empire” TV series), Stargate (Rihanna, Ne-Yo) and Mattman & Robin (Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez).

But all of that talent might be the reason the album doesn’t rise above average.

The project does have some highlights: “Send Me a Picture,” which is likely about boyfriend Blake Shelton, sounds a bit more experimental than the other tracks. “Red Flags” and “Asking 4 It,” which features rapper Fetty Wap, are high points, too.

But songs like “Naughty” and the singles “Used to Love You” and “Make Me Like You” don’t feel connected to Stefani — it’s as if another pop star could sing the tracks and you wouldn’t notice the difference. That’s disappointing for Stefani, a singer who is usually a stand-out on the pop music scene.

Holla back, girl, when you make your next album.

— Mesfin Fekadu

The Associated Press


Iggy Pop rocks and shocks on “Post Pop Depression,” evoking his 1977 peak achieved with David Bowie but enhanced by all he’s gone through since.

In Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, Pop has found a congenial songwriting partner and producer, the mature pupil who grasps both the power and subtlety of the master.

QOTSA’s Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders skillfully complete the band.

There are recurring shades of Bowie — credited by Pop with rescuing not only his post-Stooges career but his life — in various riffs and sonic details, but they are not empty homages. Pop was there (Berlin) and did that (co-writing and recording his best albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life,” with Bowie).

The nine-track “Post Pop Depression,” his 17th solo studio album, also has some of Pop’s best lyrics. “Chocolate Drops” has unique insights about being in the pits: “When your love of life is an empty beach, don’t cry, when your enemy has you in his reach, don’t die.” On “American Valhalla,” Pop tackles mortality — “I have no plans, I have no debts ... I’ve nothing but my name” — and sees a chance that his life’s work will get him in.

Closing track “Paraguay” starts idyllically with intentions of living in “a compound under the trees, with servants and bodyguards who love me,” but ends as ornery as Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino,” letting you know exactly how he feels about you and your “evil and poisonous intentions.”

In the end, if this is really his last album, Pop goes out on top and just like he came in all those years ago — ranting, raving, misbehaving and throwing it back in our faces with a cantankerous grin.

— Pablo Gorondi

The Associated Press