For the first time, we here at Beacon Street Online present our review and takeaways from Gwen’s latest and new solo album This Is What the Truth Feels Like. We’ve broken down the whole album (including the 5 bonus songs) and ranked the tracks and came out with an estimated average for each and the album itself. All of the opinions and scores are based on what we here at BSO (Jenny, Dave, Tyler, MB, Christina and Geo) think. To determine our scores, we each ranked all tracks out of 5 and then averaged our scores for each and the album as a whole. All fans are entitled to their own opinions (including us) and we would love to hear your feedback and favorites.
If we had to describe This Is What the Truth Feels Like in one word, we would say powerful. Gwen is back and her new-found confidence radiates throughout the entire album from start to finish. Truth may feature some of her best writing and we can tell that she didn’t hold back. The album flows really nicely and the production is stellar.
The whole album is so personal down to the album artwork and liner notes. Gwen’s own handwriting and doodles are featured throughout the booklet and covers and the photo shoot is like a step back in time to the Marilyn Monroe era. Gwen really took the time with Truth on not only it’s musical direction but down to the art itself.
As far as singles go, this album is full of them, and makes us excited for the future. Truth is full of bangers and we could see a few of them doing well on the radio such as “Where Would I Be?”, “Send Me a Picture” and a song that sounds like it was made for the radio waves, “Asking 4 It” featuring chart-topping rapper Fetty Wap. These songs are super catchy (though maybe a little repetitive in parts), but they are so fun and the production is top-notch. Truth does have a couple of tracks that ooze attitude and are pure Gwen in a sense that they are unpredictable and over-the-top with “Red Flag” and “Naughty”.
It’s incredible and satisfying as a fan that has followed and admired her for so many years to wade in her happiness with songs like “You’re My Favorite” and “Rare”. It’s true, we haven’t heard true “happy” songs from Gwen in a really, really long time (I mean, we’re talking since “Stricken”). Thinking back, though Rock Steady did have a few “love” songs on the album (“Underneath It All” comes to mind), they were always sprinkled with doubt and insecurities. She faces those doubts head on with Truth, and on a personal level, we were blown away by her honesty and rawness in which we didn’t know what to expect.
“Misery” / Score: 3.7/5
“Enough, enough of this suffering / Hurry up, come see me / Put me out of my misery”
With it’s unique bass line, “Misery” is a great track to kick off the album and sets a precedent of what to expect: emotionally driven lyrics and stellar production. Fans were anxiously waiting for a taste of the track after Gwen first mentioned it as a potential single late last year. “Misery” delivered and the lyrics seem like they were taken straight from her diary (even though it does get a little repetitive).
“You’re My Favorite” / Score: 4/5
“Momma, can I keep him? / I promise I’ll take care of him”
“You’re My Favorite” is a standout track. The song delivers unique production and interesting tempos throughout with a somewhat haunting charm. “You’re My Favorite” gives us a slick ’90s R&B vibe and that synth used in the song sounds pretty damn magical.
“Where Would I Be?” / Score: 4.4/5 (Christina’s Favorite)
“I just love on you now / I guess that’s just what I’m gonna do now”
We see “Where Would I Be?” as a potential single from the album. With it’s poppy-reggae vibe (reminds us of Lily Allen a little), it sounds like a perfect party song and is quintessential Gwen in 2016. When the bridge comes in, we’re taken back to Gwen’s holler-chant in “Hollaback Girl”, then she smooths back in with a warm vocal delivery. As expected as the song may have been, it’s totally unexpected and really fun.
“Make Me Like You” / Score: 4/5
“Hey, wait a minute / You’re on me like jewelry / I really like it but I’m so scared”
“Make Me Like You” is pop perfection and it stands out as one of the bright spots on Truth. The song is super fun and catchy and the disco-esque vibe is addicting and a refreshing sound from Gwen. Her vocal delivery on the track is so sweet and innocent which blends well with production.
“Truth” / Score: 4.5/5 (Tyler’s Favorite)
“They’re all gonna say I’m rebounding / So rebound all over me / Cause I don’t want nobody else”
“Truth” is one of Gwen’s best songs. From the super personal lyrics to the incredible instrumental, the whole song feels organic and honest. It tugs on our heartstrings for sure and the production and delivery gives us chills. It’s great to have a song like this from Gwen that really showcases her talent as a songwriter and true artist. And we’re so incredibly happy for Gwen for coming such a long way. We can’t say enough about “Truth”. It’s beautiful and we’re feeling it.
“Used To Love You” / Score: 3.5/5
“I thought I was the best thing to ever happen to you / Now look at what you lost”
Gwen’s debut single from Truth, “Used To Love You” was praised by critics and fans for being one of her most personal songs in years. “Used To Love You” still stands out as one of the album’s most intimate tracks and holds a special place for us due to it kickstarting everything off in the right direction. MAIZE also remixed the track (which Interscope released as the official remix) and it came across just as powerful as the original. But after stacking “Used To Love You” up against the rest of the album, it came in as one of the weaker tracks for us.
“Send Me a Picture” / Score: 3.3/5
“Are you looking online? / Are you looking at me? / Been thinking of you / Are you thinking of me?”
“Send Me a Picture” is fun, flirty and breezy and the beat reminds us of “Don’t Get It Twisted”. It’s also hard not to hear Major Lazer’s “Lean On” a little once you’ve compared the two (not like that’s a bad thing) but the track came in towards the bottom for us, too.
“Red Flag” / Score: 3.8/5
“Big mistake / Red flags fly / Right there, but I close my eyes / Carelessly I let it slide…”
The production on “Red Flag” is CRAZY! Notably known as one of the first songs Gwen wrote after heading back into the studio after her split from her ex-husband, the lyrics are intense and angry. It’s an entirely new sound from Gwen but oddly familiar. The orchestral strings add an eerie sound to the track alongside the thumping bass and rhythmic vocal delivery. It’s incredible but we can see how some wouldn’t dig it — from Gwen yelling out “This is your punishment!” to hearing her sob in the background. Whatever it is, it’s totally her and we love her for taking the risk.
“Asking 4 It” (feat. Fetty Wap) / Score: 3.8/5
“I know it’s a lot to handle me / But it is what it is / It’s all apart of my broken history”
“Asking 4 It” is the most urban song on Truth and has all the key ingredients to be a radio smash. Gwen is joined by chart-topping rapper Fetty Wap and the beat is pretty addictive. The chorus is super catchy and repetitive (which is good for radio!) and has a few special moments throughout including the off-beat synth and smooth breakdowns. Even though it’s hard to understand a word from Fetty Wap, he’s actually cool to hear on the track and an unexpected pleasant surprise.
“Naughty” / Score: 4.2/5 (Jenny’s Favorite)
“Thinking that nobody, nobody, nobody knows / But I’ve got your number, I’ve got your codes / This ain’t the first time at the rodeo, hello?”
“Naughty” comes off as a huge Broadway production number and we’re sold. From all the interesting sounds, shapes, deliveries, tempo changes — it’s another track on Truth that is so true to Gwen — and one like “Red Flag” that might split fans down the middle. That piano! Those lyrics! The lyrics are so catchy and sassy and her confidence radiates throughout the track it’s hard not to feel the song in your bones. Her vocal delivery flashbacks us back to her vibrato that we’ve always freaked out over.
“Me Without You” / Score: 4.1/5 (Dave’s Favorite)
“Watch me breathe without you / Things are about to get real good”
“Me Without You” is a true testament to Gwen’s strength as a person and songwriter. The raw emotion she delivers really conveys that she’s here to stay and back better than ever. She’s finally free of the burdens that have been holding her back and it’s really empowering to hear. “Me Without You” just makes us want to belt out lyrics along with her and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to enjoy the track live one day.
“Rare” / Score: 4/5 (Geo’s Favorite)
“I feel worthless / I’ve been hurt so bad / I get nervous you won’t love me back”
Like “Truth”, “Rare” features some of Gwen’s best lyrics in awhile and is an ode to her new beau and how special he is to her. The melodies and music are gorgeous and Gwen’s waving vocals are simply stunning. The music to us sounds like a perfect mesh of what she’s known for but is so fresh at the same time. “Rare” soars and gives us an intimate look into Gwen’s heart and leaves a lasting impression as the album’s final track (on the US standard edition).
“Rocket Ship” / Score: 3.6/5
“I’m taking this rocket ship to the moon and damn my whole crew coming with me”
Another track with pretty insane production, “Rocket Ship” is really fun. Gwen’s vocal delivery is really impressive and the hook is incredibly catchy. The song has a few different working parts but translates smoothly and fresh.
“Getting Warmer” / Score: 4.2/5
“Maybe this time, yeah I might get it right if you let me / So let me / Am I getting warmer?”
“Getting Warmer” should have made the album. It’s near perfect in all aspects from the lyrics and melodies to the incredible production throughout. We could see “Getting Warmer” being a huge hit for Gwen and it’s just so freaking good. Her soft vocals on the music box-like track and thumping bass is out of this world and comes across as effortless.
“Obsessed” / Score: 3.5/5
“What planet am I on? / I’m only human / I’m about to lose my mind”
“Obsessed” brings us back to the L.A.M.B. album with it’s kookiness and ’80s dance club charm. Gwen’s flirty lyrics and vocal delivery is really fun — “Obsessed” is simply about Gwen being obsessed with a new relationship and finding herself feeling certain feelings again years later (and pulling over to text on the road). She’s enjoying herself and it really shows on “Obsessed”. The chorus is really catchy and fun to sing along to! Plus that accent Gwen uses during the bridge is fantastic.
“Splash” / Score: 2.8/5
“I’m gonna take a risk, skinny dip / Cause I see you’re on the loose”
While some of the melodies are interesting and pretty, we can understand how “Splash” wasn’t included on the standard edition. Gwen’s vocals are on-point on “Splash”, but the track just doesn’t standout among the rest of the album. “Splash” is fun with sexy lyrics, but collectively came in as our least favorite.
“Loveable” / Score: 4.4/5 (Maribeth’s Favorite)
“Can you handle it? / Someone else on my lips? / Can you handle that, eh?”
It’s unfortunate enough this song didn’t make the final album, but worse, it’s only available on international deluxe editions. “Loveable” is incredible and features some of Gwen’s most intense and gorgeous vocal deliveries in recent memories. The lyrics are strong, sassy and powerful and a direct reference to moving on mentally and physically. We love the breakdown which kind of reminds us of a Garbage song (Gwen’s vocals do come across as a little Shirley Manson-esque at some point) — and we love it. So much. The dark synths are just icing on the cake, too. It’s something new from Gwen and comes across (in our opinion) as one of the highlights and most gut-wrenching tracks on Truth.
“War Paint” / Score: 3.7/5
“Decorate my skin / Some scars you can’t just cover up / Here I am again / This time I’ve just have had enough”
“War Paint” is a unique track all on it’s own and features a very tribal influenced sound not found on the rest of the album. It’s really interesting and we’re kind of digging the drums and male chants throughout. It’s a shame this track may be impossible for most fans to obtain since it’s only available on the Japanese edition of Truth. “War Paint”‘s lyrics are powerful and Gwen is in top form with her vocal delivery. Seriously, why was this not included at least on the deluxe edition?
OVERALL / Score: 3.9/5
Overall for us, Truth was definitely worth the wait. The album is full of whimsical charm and empowering tracks and comes across as great achievement for Gwen. From smitten kitten to angry roars, Gwen takes us on rollercoaster of emotions with honesty, truth and left nothing to the imagination.
With tracks like “Red Flag”, “Naughty” and “Me Without You”, Gwen vented and gave fans the “angry” tracks that they were expecting and looking forward to. She’s always been someone that “got us” growing up and somehow always knew what we were all thinking and was able to convey it. But it’s not just the lyrics that sparked our interests — it was the interesting and unexpected (not to mention polished) productions. She’s right, the team that she notably worked with her along the way consistently (including J.R. Rotem, Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, and Raja Kumari) really understood her and took the project seriously for what it was and it shows. Truth is solid throughout and really delivered something special.
And the album leaves us excited for more and what’s next. No, we’re not chomping at the bit for another album soon but just for Gwen’s next chapter. She seems like she’s in such an incredible place and we couldn’t be any more proud and happier for her for making it this far. Gwen doesn’t owe us anything at this point and we feel incredibly grateful to her for returning to what she loves and sharing the finished product with everyone who has had her back along the way. Songs like “Rare”, “You’re My Favorite” and “Where Would I Be?” are just as powerful and it’s incredible to hear her reflect and open up from a happy place for a change.
Review written solely for Beacon Street Online by Jenny and features input and rankings from the BSO staff.