No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom: Track By Track

No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom: Track By Track

A retrospective album review by Nicholas Jones
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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: http://www.nodoubt.com/music/tragic-kingdom

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To the guy that shot my brother...

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To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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