No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom: Track By Track

No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom: Track By Track

A retrospective album review by Nicholas Jones

It was announced late last week that after 13 years of marriage, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale would be filing for divorce. It isn't the first divorce in Hollywood and it certainly will not be the last. I thought, if only to lighten up the mood, I should review No Doubt's magnum opus. It's the band that made Gwen Stefani who she is. The timing is perfect because it just so happens that Tragic Kingdom will be turning 20 years old this October. So without further ado, here we go!

  • "Spiderwebs" As soon as the song starts, I almost feel as if I’m walking through a parade route. It sounds cultured but new at the same time. It was a nice idea to put this song at the front of the record, mainly because it opens Tragic Kingdom for what it is. An oxymoronic journey of confusion. It may sound like nothing you’ve heard before and the lyrics are just as creative. A great listen, impeccably triumphant.
  • "Excuse Me Mr." This song, in my opinion, is a huge step down from “Spiderwebs.” It sounds almost like a malfunctioning rollercoaster. Lyrically, it’s quite exceptional, but Stefani’s vocals make this track almost impossible to enjoy. I’m a fan of her voice, for sure, when it’s pronounced. In this, I feel as if she and the band are simultaneously trying to overpower each other. Too complicated. If it were stripped back a tad bit, it would more than likely have been more enjoyable.
  • "Just A Girl" Bouncing back from the turbulence of the previous track, “Just A Girl” is both sonically and lyrically pleasing. A triumphant Ska-flavored, teenage feminist anthem. Stefani’s belts and range are diverse and well-measured, stacked perfectly against the sounds reflecting it. This song begins and ends on a high note, quickly becoming a stand-out track in its own right. No doubt.
  • "Happy Now?" This track starts out with a strong guitar strum and doesn’t stray far from the high level of excitement it promises. It’s mellow and Stefani’s echoing vocals sound strained but controlled. It sounds like a 50s dance hall throwback splashed together with contemporary influences. It doesn’t strain itself and that ultimately makes it an entertaining almost-four minutes.
  • "Different People" While the concept of the song is unique, the song is a filler. Either that, or it just runs too long. Either way, I’m only two minutes in and I’ve lost interest.
  • "Hey You!" This song is actually kind of sad. Depressing, actually. All hope is lost. It’s an upbeat track on the surface, which actually makes “Hey You!” a tad bit melancholy. I enjoy this song, though. Not the best, but not bad.
  • "The Climb" Lyrically, this song is immaculate. No question about that. But it drags on towards the end, almost to the point where it becomes annoying, like it’s never going to end. Although, Gwen’s vocals and the material she’s working with makes up for it. Somewhat.
  • "Sixteen" After listening to this song, I can honestly say that if I were younger, I’d probably find enjoyment in “Sixteen.” I like it. It speaks to the teenager in all of us, without a doubt. It certainly would’ve had hit potential if it had been released as a single. That’s all I can say.
  • "Sunday Morning" Along with “Just A Girl,” this song is among the more lyrically clever. The vocals are well pronounced and clear, so is the rhythm. It’s certainly a standout track. It fully deserved all the praise it got. It’s a good track, worthy of mentioning when talking of the album as a whole.
  • "Don’t Speak" Where do I begin? This track is my favorite song from No Doubt’s entire catalogue. Speaking from personal experience, I played this song heavily after my first break-up. It’s the quintessential song if you’re the one being broken up with. The emotion in Gwen Stefani’s voice and the raw chemistry the band shares on this track is enough to make it every fan’s favorite song. No Doubt struck gold with this song. I couldn’t give it enough praise, or rather, I just can’t put it into words. Not to mention, the music video cemented its place in pop culture reverence. Perfect.
  • "You Can Do It" A near-360 degree turn away from “Don’t Speak,” this song is much more motivational. It’s hard to move on after a break-up, but hey, if you got yourself in then you can get yourself out. Abrasive, some might say, but I think it certainly has a great amount of poignancy.
  • "World Go Round" It’s a great track with a catchy hook, but it ultimately doesn’t fit in with every other track on Tragic Kingdom, at least not to me. It gets points for being catchy, though, and I will say that it’s very well constructed.
  • "End It On This" This song suffers from the same problem that many before it have. It isn’t slow enough. One of the main reasons why “Don’t Speak” struck out so well was because No Doubt made the conscious effort to tone it down. The “bad” songs on this album could’ve been better if they followed the same pattern as “Don’t Speak” -- especially this one. I don’t know whether to be excited or depressed and it’s emotionally jarring, to be honest. Nice lyrics, though.
  • "Tragic Kingdom" The title track is the last track and it’s… *sigh* underwhelming. I’m not a fan of this song. It could’ve been better. All I’m saying.

I give No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom a C+. It has its fair share of hits. And lyrically, all of the songs are diverse, but the sound of this record, after an hour, is dizzying and leaves you mentally exhausted. Maybe I’m just not that big of a Ska-revivalist fan? I don’t know. Although, I will say, it does appeal to a younger audience, with songs like “Just A Girl” and “Don’t Speak.” It’s easy to see why it was such a huge hit when it was released. Ultimately, Tragic Kingdom has just as many low points as it does high points.

Cover Image Credit:

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