Album Review: No Doubt – “Tragic Kingdom”

No Doubt released their third album, Tragic Kingdom, on October 10, 1995. The album has sold 16 million copies worldwide, and has been certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America; Tragic Kingdom also ranked at number 441 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album spawned seven singles, and helped to initiate a ska revival in the 1990s. In addition, No Doubt received two Grammy nominations with this album: one for Best New Artist and one for Best Rock Album.


I was in college when this album was released, and I have to admit that I wasn’t too interested in the band at first; this may have been due to how much MTV was playing the videos for the early singles. However, when “Don’t Speak” came out, that song really grabbed my attention, and I gave No Doubt a second chance. When I did, I realized that I did truly like the other songs I had heard.

Tragic Kingdom opens with “Spiderwebs,” which was released as the second single from the album; it peaked at number eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart. Lyrically, the song is about a man who would call lead singer Gwen Stefani to recite bad poetry to her. Musically, there is a heavy emphasis on percussion and brass instruments. This is one of the songs that I personally enjoy on Tragic Kingdom. The next song is “Excuse Me Mr.,” which was released as the fourth single from the album, and it peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It’s a very upbeat and almost punk-sounding song, with lyrics about a woman who is trying to get the attention of a man who doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to her. This is another song that I personally enjoy on the album.

“Just a Girl” was released as the lead-off single for Tragic Kingdom, and it peaked at number twenty-three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song features lyrics from the point of view of a woman who is frustrated with female stereotypes, especially the one where women are seen as weak and needing a man to look after them. This lyrical exasperation is coupled with an upbeat musical track, and it’s basically a female anthem. This is another song on Tragic Kingdom that I personally enjoy. “Happy Now?” was released as the fifth single from the album. It’s an upbeat song, with lyrics about a breakup of a relationship; this is another song I really like on Tragic Kingdom.

“Different People” is a very ska-influenced song, and also has an emphasis on brass instruments. Sonically, this sounds a little different in comparison to the previous songs on the album, but it still fits in with the rest of the material. Lyrically, the song talks about the differences between people. This is followed by “Hey You,” a song with lyrics from the point of view of someone who is disillusioned by romantic relationships. Musically, this song has much less of the ska influence than is prevalent in the material that appears prior to this song, but it still fits in with the rest of the album.

The next song is “The Climb,”which is one of the slower songs on the album. Lyrically, the song is about someone trying to keep going, even when obstacles get in the way and things seem hopeless. “Sixteen” picks the pace of the album back up, and has a much more “straight ahead” rock feel in comparison to the other songs on the album. As the title suggests, the lyrics of the song are about a sixteen-year-old.

Next is “Sunday Morning,” which was released as the sixth single from Tragic Kingdom; it peaked at number thirty-five on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart. Lyrically, it’s a song that deals with the breakup of a romantic relationship. Musically, it contains more of the ska influence that’s expected from No Doubt. It’s another song from the album that I enjoy. This is followed by “Don’t Speak,” which was released as the third single from Tragic Kingdom; it peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart, and stayed there for sixteen weeks. It’s another slower song on the album, and it’s been presumed that the song is about the breakup of the romantic relationship between lead vocalist Gwen Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal. The song was also nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 1998 Grammy Awards. “Don’t Speak” is my all-time favorite song by No Doubt.

“You Can Do It” has a strong funk and disco influence on it, which includes a heavier use of brass instruments. Lyrically, the song is trying to convince someone that even though things may seem bleak, that they can rise above it and turn things around. This is another song on the album that I personally like. This is followed by “World Go ‘Round,” which is another song that prominently features brass instruments; this is a midtemp song, with lyrics about needing to find a way to make a difference in the world and change the way that things are going.

Next is “End It on This,” which picks the tempo of the album back up. Lyrically, it’s another song about the breakup of a romantic relationship. The album closes with the title song, which is a midtempo song. Lyrically, it uses the ideas of castles and kingdoms. It’s an interesting way to end an album.

Tragic Kingdom is an album that flows together very well, even with some of the different styles being used in the music. It also really sets the foundation for the direction the band would take with future albums. If you want to introduce someone to No Doubt’s music, you would definitely want to start with Tragic Kingdom.

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