10 Best No Doubt Songs
Unlike almost every other band that came out of the ’90s ska revival, No Doubt weren’t 100 percent wedded to a musical template that was sketched out long before anyone in the United States decided to form a band with their high-school marching band’s horn players. They scattered pop, New Wave, synth-pop and Top 40 ballads into their repertoire too. Plus, they had a female singer — a cool and crucial change-up from the usually male-dominated and testosterone-fueled genre. Long after most of these bands hauled their trombones to the attic, No Doubt are still releasing records. Last year’s ‘Push and Shove’ even debuted at No. 3. Our list of the 10 Best No Doubt Songs includes 20 years’ worth of radio-ready synth-pop, New Wave, Top 40 and, yes, ska music.
No Doubt’s third album, ‘Tragic Kingdom,’ was such an unexpected hit after its release in 1995, the band was able to delay the release of its follow-up until the new millennium. ‘Return of Saturn’ slightly expanded the group’s musical palette while remaining comfortably close to ‘Tragic Kingdom”s proven formula. The first single, ‘Ex-Girlfriend,’ is a widescreen version of the band’s pop side.
‘Underneath It All’
This mid-tempo reggae song featuring Jamaican star Lady Saw was the third single released from No Doubt’s best and most musically adventurous album, ‘Rock Steady.’ Besides ‘No Speak,’ which hit No. 1 (see No. 8 on our list of the 10 Best No Doubt Songs), ‘Underneath It All’ is the band’s highest-charting hit, reaching No. 3.
One of ‘Tragic Kingdom”s most conventional songs became No Doubt’s only No. 1 hit in 1996. It’s easy to hear why: ‘Don’t Speak’ is a pretty typical Top 40 ballad that shows off little of the band’s spark. What sells the song is Gwen Stefani’s strong vocal performance. This is the track that made her a star.
‘It’s My Life’
‘It’s My Life’ was originally a Top 40 hit for British synth-pop band Talk Talk in 1984. When No Doubt were putting together their greatest-hits record in 2003, and while Stefani was busy focusing on her solo career, they recorded a cover of ‘It’s My Life’ that became their fourth Top 10. It’s almost as good as the original.
The lead single from the band’s first album in 10 years crams a lot into its very busy six minutes, including some ska, pop, dancehall, reggae and a big-hook chorus that drives the whole thing home. The rest of ‘Push and Shove’ is kinda spotty, but ‘Settle Down’ is a bouncy blast of synth-powered pop gold.
‘Spiderwebs,’ the second single from the massively huge ‘Tragic Kingdom’ album, helped bring ska music to mainstream radio. No Doubt infused the genre with their own brand of California skate-punk aesthetic, but it rang true enough to spark a horn-powered revival among modern rockers in the mid ’90s. Appropriately, ‘Spiderwebs’ is tangled, sticky and super catchy.
‘Just a Girl’
No Doubt released their self-titled debut album in 1992. Nobody heard it. Three years (and an independently released record) later, they followed it up with ‘Tragic Kingdom’ and no expectations. But the musical climate was a lot more welcoming to new sounds in 1995 and ‘Tragic Kingdom’ became a hit, thanks to a flurry of hit singles. ‘Just a Girl’ is the one that started it all — a groove-stuffed combo of ska, pop and New Wave energy.
‘Simple Kind of Life’
Stefani hooked up with Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale sometime during her band’s long tour in support of ‘Tragic Kingdom.’ By the time No Doubt got around to recording the follow-up album, she and Rossdale were settling into a comfortable relationship. ‘Simple Kind of Life’ imagines a happy domesticity. Two years later, they were married.
After 2000’s mostly lackluster ‘Return of Saturn,’ No Doubt returned a year later with their most musically expansive work (see No. 9 on our list of the 10 Best No Doubt Songs). ‘Rock Steady’ added hip-hop, club beats and blippy electronic noise to the band’s usual arsenal of genre-jumping music. The terrific ‘Hella Good’ crams most of these styles into a little more than four glorious minutes.
It took No Doubt five years to release the follow-up LP to their 1995 breakthrough. Their next album appeared a year later, and apparently they were saving all the great songs for it. ‘Hey Baby’ was the lead single from ‘Rock Steady,’ and it climbed the Top 10, their biggest hit since ‘Don’t Speak’ reached No. 1 in 1996. Dancehall star Bounty Killer shows up for a mid-song break, but this is No Doubt at their flashiest and funkiest.