2015 marks a milestone year for singer, songwriter and tastemaker Gwen Stefani. 20 years ago, the Anaheim, California native helped redefine what it means to be “Just a Girl” in the world of rock n’ roll on No Doubt’s classic album, Tragic Kingdom. This year also marks the end of her 20-year relationship with fellow rock star Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of the band Bush. Stefani channels her pain over her divorce in the heartbroken song, “Used To Love You,” which is very reminiscent of the personal records she recorded on that breakout album.
On “Used To Love You,” Stefani sings about that tumultuous post-breakup period where the shouting is all over, but now you’re re-examining the whole relationship play by play like a football coach trying to see all the rights, wrongs and misgivings. The chorus — “I don’t know why I cry / But I think it’s because I remember for the first time / Since I hated you / That I used to love you” — poignantly sums up her pain and distress on the record.
While the song is already brimming with angst and tears, the video matches the track pretty much beat for beat. Instead of dramatizing the end of a relationship or using a clever metaphor, Stefani simply bears her sorrow by going through the motions right in front of the camera. It’s charming, heartbreaking and a little difficult to watch.
“Used To Love You” marks a departure from Stefani's big, bombastic pop anthems. Instead, we’re treated to a more personal record reminiscent of her songwriting on Tragic Kingdom. Stefani told Entertainment Weekly that the songs she first recorded for her upcoming third solo album "didn't feel right" and so she scrapped the project in favor of something more "natural." She's used her art as a conduit for her pain and the craftsmanship shows. While some of the clever wordplay of the past is lost due to Stefani not having the objective distance from her pain as before, the frank lyrics and austere video make the former Mrs. Rossdale’s point clear and our hearts go out to her.