it must have been a saturday afternoon in the fifth grade. i was watching television (as per usual. i was never much for outside activities) and all i remember is flipping to one of the music channels (probably mtv because mtv was cooler then and played music videos) and being struck dumb by what was happening in front of me: plaid everywhere. a fish-eye lens. an asian wedding, and some girl with platinum hair jumping and thrusting with a rhinestone bindhi on her forehead and her own name emblazoned on her half-shirt in gothic style writing. everyone was wearing eyeliner.
i was speechless.
i just remember being mesmerized. i had no idea what was going on or who this woman was with her bangs and her red lips and maybe she was pretty? but she wasn't trying to be, and that was the puzzling part of it for me. this was the almost-late 90's. this was just about the time the Spice Girls and Aqua squirted all over our faces and only a few years before the Latin Explosion--"KEEP YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL AND WEAR PLEATHER IF YOU WANT TO BE LOVED" is what the tv kept screaming at me. "GET A BELLYBUTTON RING! OH, WAIT, YOU'RE NOT THIN ENOUGH. TRY HARDER TO SUCK LESS." yet here was a woman who chose to sneer in front of the camera rather than smile with her eyes.
this could mark a point in my life when i was paying attention to what i was consuming, and i won't say i was making a conscious choice to follow an arguably feminist icon, but i did learn the brand name Doc Marten's, and knew that i wanted a vinyl pair sparkling with gold glitter.
(side note: my good friend Sabrina has a blog post all about her female icons through adolescence and today. who are yours?)
when i bought the album (i'm sure my dad actually bought it for me), i had never heard of Anaheim, California, and i had no idea the significance of oranges to the state, but i just knew i wanted to have these people as friends. i spent, literally, hours in my room jumping onto and off of my bed, roundhouse kicking and working on both my one-handed push-ups (not so successful) and my vibrato (remember when you're young and you think your room is sound-proof?) that i'm surprised i still have the same copy. i loved everything--gwen stefani's look, her faces, the writing, the way all of them seemed to understand each other (that reads gay).
i was 12 and didn't even know what the word oppression really meant, and certainly hadn't felt it, not really (only read about it in books that i didn't care about because i didn't like to read and, really, there wasn't much diversity happening in my school system. i felt oppressed by my mother because she refused to pack my lunch for me), but i could not WAIT to be in my mid-teens and REALLY understanding what was meant by all this:
my mother said, "she looks like madonna."
aw, ma! you don't get it, man!
Tragic Kingdom is the quintessential no doubt album, not just for females but for anyone who has had a broken heart (i.e. everyone). it succeeds because it does get very dark in some places and sometimes you don't want to admit that you were an idiot for planning your wedding in your head, and maybe you are just a stupid little girl.
the end of stefani's relationship relationship with no doubt bassist tony kanal is expounded upon and explored so deeply throughout Tragic Kingdom that at times it treads the line between cathartic and ridiculous, but most times makes a quick recovery, and when it doesn't, it is forgiven because "it's how i freakin' FEEL, Ma!" most break-ups are painfully awkward and full of lingering resentment and that is why not only the lyrics but the timbre and tone of gwen stefani's voice are so relatable (and why so many girls wrote down the words to "Don't Speak" and slipped them through slots in lockers across this great nation). but stefani is not saying "woe is me!" she's sad, yes, but she's also spitting venom and not apologizing for it.
just to take the edge off a bit, there are a couple of songs about, like, fixing the planet or being nice to one another or appreciating your surroundings or something. but, no worries, other wise it's "why," "fuck you," and "whatever, i don't care, but really i do." also, doing all this research has made me feel a little bad for kanal in all of this, just because video shoots might have been weird, and they had to tour and talk about this album for, of course, months, and awkward!
Return of Saturn(the follow-up, which i respected for the time they took to produce it) was a pretty good album, but a little too polished for my taste and i wasn't that heartbroken when it was scratched to beyond listenable. i bought Rock Steady for purely band loyalty reasons and barely listened to it--it seemed lazy: gwen was happy with gavin rossdale by then and not ripping her guts out over tony so who cares?
so here's to the great No Doubt! they said things i couldn't find the words for at the time, and helped me be angry when i thought that i shouldn't, and ultimately, helped me become at least 0.0001% more comfortable in my skin and with my psyche. and, let's face it, that confidence is damn near impossible to inspire in anyone, especially anyone in middle school.