No Doubt, who by the names of Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont, and Adrian Young, became one of the biggest bands of the 1990s after the release of their breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom. But as some may already know, their success wasn’t instant. They had been working hard for nearly 10 years prior and hit it big time after already releasing two studio albums.
No Doubt first formed in 1986. Gwen may be known as the lead singer today. However, that wasn’t always the case. Initially, John Spence was the frontman while Gwen delivered the backing vocals. Spence died by suicide in 1987 and the band took a break.
Once No Doubt reformed, Gwen was encouraged to take the lead. Things would eventually pick up and they would become global megastars in the late 1990s after years of hard work.
No Doubt boast many accolades including two Grammy Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, a Billboard Music Award, and five top 10 albums, one of which is certified diamond. According to Chart Masters, the band has sold over 35.3 million albums worldwide, as of 2020.
No Doubt hasn’t released an album for nearly a whole decade. However, their legacy still lives on and their music is very much still alive. Here is a ranking of their six studio albums from worst to best.
6. The Beacon Street Collection
Released in 1995, The Beacon Street Collection was No Doubt’s second studio album. The record remains their lowest-selling album, but that has a lot to do with the fact it was only available to be purchased at record stores located in the Orange County area when first released.
The Beacon Street Collection is easily one of their most raw bodies of work and has a couple of hidden gems in there. The punky Total Hate ’95 is an obvious standout as well as By The Way. Gwen’s older brother, Eric Stefani, was a member of the band during this time and wrote the majority of the content.
The Beacon Street Collection is by no means a bad album. But Gwen’s presence on the album isn’t as strong when you compare it to their other releases that followed.
5. No Doubt
No Doubt’s debut self-titled album dropped in 1992 and has a very polished and squeaky-clean production. The record is pure ska and has a very bright and jolly vibe to it. Like their sophomore album, their debut was also clearly missing a lot of Gwen’s heart and soul within the lyrics.
No Doubt is placed one-up from The Beacon Street Collection because there are more highs within the album including Trapped In A Box, Ache, Paulina, Let’s Get Back, and Brand New Day. It is a more pleasurable listen from start to finish. If you want to start your day with some positive music, No Doubt is your go-to album.
2022 will mark the album’s 30th anniversary and deserves to be celebrated in some way by the band.
4. Push and Shove
Push and Shove was No Doubt’s first album released in over a decade and had been a long time coming. The era was short-lived and essentially deserved a lot better on the whole.
After the release of two huge pop solo albums, Gwen was able to reunite with No Doubt and deliver on the band’s “comeback” single, Settle Down, as if no time had passed. The reggae-infused dancehall track sounded like something they would have followed Rock Steady with in the early 2000s had they not gone on a hiatus.
The band admitted that Push and Shove was a struggle to make and is definitely a mixed bag. Essentially, there are no terrible songs. But, sonically it’s not very cohesive. The album title track is an obvious career highlight and Looking Hot sadly didn’t get the moment it deserved when it was released as a single.
Gwen’s songwriting always shines most when she wears her heart on her sleeve, which is why Easy, One More Summer, and Undercover are the best deep cuts.
3. Return of Saturn
Anything from this point on could easily be considered their best. Return of Saturn was released five years after No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and took on a more dark and alternative rock sound while maintaining their ska roots on a string of songs — Bathwater, Home Now, and Staring Problem.
With the slight change of genre, Gwen also reinvented her image significantly for the Return of Saturn era. Instead of playing it safe and releasing another Tragic Kingdom, the band ended up going in another direction and created something that was true to themselves. Return of Saturn commercially didn’t take No Doubt’s career to new heights, but it was the album they wanted to make and a risk worth taking.
On the whole, the record is a lot more slower-paced and contains a lot more ballad-like tracks that Gwen gets real deep on. The album produced a flawless run of singles — New, Ex-Girlfriend, Simple Kind of Life, and Bathwater — and album cuts — Magic’s In The Makeup and Artificial Sweetener — that have gone down as fan-favorites.
Lyrically, it’s probably Gwen’s best work and is a masterpiece she should be proud of. Although, in a 2021 British Vogue interview, she admitted that it’s her least favorite album she made with the band.
“It was during a really, really hard time in my life. We were coming off a two-and-a-half-year tour and I was so sheltered — I lived at home before that tour. I was 26, but I still lived with my parents. I went around the world and I had just broken up with my everything — my best friend, the person I relied on for everything — and my brother left the band, so I was alone. [Return of Saturn] is so full of doubt regarding where I was in my life and I knew I was doing things that were wrong, but I didn’t know how to stop it.”
2. Rock Steady
By the time Rock Steady was released in 2001, No Doubt was on a creative roll. One year after dropping Return of Saturn, it appeared the band was in a completely different headspace. A big chunk of Rock Steady was heavily inspired by reggae and dancehall music and saw No Doubt collaborate with artists from that scene, Lady Shaw and Bounty Killer. Along with those names, they also worked alongside The Neptunes, William Orbit, David Stewart, Nelle Hooper, and the late Prince and Ric Ocasek.
On the whole, Rock Steady is an uplifting and fun record, and heard Gwen sing less about heartbreak for the first time. It’s probably their most commercial, radio-friendly album to this day and features a number of carefree pop songs that still hold up to this day — Don’t Let Me Down, Making Out, and Detective.
The Rock Steady era won the band two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. First in 2003 for the super catchy Hey Baby and the following year for what could be considered their most “timeless” single to date, Underneath It All. And of course, there’s also the funky Hella Good which is a solid 10/10 that doesn’t need awards to tell you how superior it is in their discography.
1. Tragic Kingdom
A some-what predictable number one but also very well deserved. I mean, any of the top three could have been placed at No. 1 and it would have been acceptable.
1995’s Tragic Kingdom is the album that propelled No Doubt’s career into superstardom and is without a doubt (no pun intended) their most successful and iconic album. It was the first record where Gwen was singing about her true feelings and got to show off the incredible songwriting skills she never knew she had.
Tragic Kingdom is a mix of punk and ska with hints of pop. It didn’t sound like anything at the time and still doesn’t now. Gwen’s energy and passion on Spiderwebs, Excuse Me Mr., and Just A Girl is completely unmatched and helped influence a whole generation of stars who wanted to be just like her. The chart-topping power ballad Don’t Speak, the album’s most famous and popular single, might not represent the LP in the best way, but has managed to stay relevant and current after 25 years.
Aside from the huge epic singles, Tragic Kingdom is jam-packed with anthems from start to finish and covers a whole range of topics from heartbreak to human diversity. Even though Happy Now?, The Climb, and Different People weren’t released as worldwide singles, Tragic Kingdom manages to sound like a Greatest Hits compilation decades after its initial release.
According to Billboard, Tragic Kingdom has sold over 10 million copies in the US alone and is listed as one of 92 albums to be certified diamond.
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