Tragic Kingdom

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I have always loved Valentine’s Day. I feel bad for any child who doesn’t experience the day the way we did. I’ve talked about it before on the blog, in a previous post. It was a day you prepared for. You sat down in advance with a class list and made a card for everyone. You decorated your own bag, and then gave a little acknowledgement to everyone in the class. It was a day when you found out that certain people thought you were funny or that they valued you because they gave you one of the cool temporary tattoos in your bag.

As we got older, the day, of course, shifted in meaning. It was a day when you put your best lipstick on and prayed your crush glanced your way in the hallway. Hell, even in law school it was confusing. If you had someone (which I never did) you blasted the best love songs– and maybe you had a song. I know I was obsessed with “No Air” by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown (let’s be real– I’m still obsessed). And if you had no one, you sort of retreated into listening to the sadder music. A mood.

The truth is, we had incredible music that was POETRY. They don’t make it like that anymore. With Gwen Stefani’s reintroduction into music, I was reminded of her No Doubt band days, and let me tell you, their music was art. They had some of the best song lyrics of our time. I thought it would be fun, in these days leading up to Valentine’s Day, to look at some of my favorite songs involving No Doubt and Stefani. Music that spoke to our hearts as a generation. It moved us. And to be honest, it still does.

The song I want to share about today is “Don’t Speak”, which is from No Doubt’s third album, Tragic Kingdom. Gwen and Eric Stefani (Gwen’s brother) wrote the song, and she basically made it about when bandmate Tony Kanal ended their seven-year relationship. It was No Doubt’s most successful international single, according to Wikipedia. If you’ve seen the video, it’s clearly about Kanal and Stefani. They exchange looks, she is wearing the bindi on her forehead, which she often did to honor his heritage, and at certain points she is singing passionately toward him, almost yelling at him.

Gif via Giphy

Out of Stefani’s heartbreak from losing Kanal, we got this amazing song that is relatable to anyone who has lost someone and felt that it was coming. The song is about losing someone who is your best friend; someone so close that you know what they are going to say. It’s about a relationship that is dying, as the song says; something on life support. The title and chorus, “Don’t Speak”, encapsulates that feeling you get when you know something is off and you have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen next. When you are in this experience, you don’t want to hear an end made final because it’s ripping you apart inside. It’s about denial. Have you been there?

It’s a weird thing when we come to grips with the fact that a relationship that we don’t want to end is ending. The song is filled with angst, dread, hurt and almost a pleading. Some people these days don’t even get the courtesy of a conversation or closure when a relationship ends. It just ends. (This is our loss of decency as a society). So many young people may be unfamiliar with the very essence of this song, which is about a relationship/friendship/respect between two people that ended up working together for many years in the future.

Gif via Pinterest

Love has many phases, and we’ll be looking at the different relationships and dynamics we can find ourselves in. In this song, we find a young woman who is grieving a relationship that is presently dying in front of her. She believes that maybe if he (the other party) doesn’t speak, then certain things won’t materialize or become real, but as we who have experienced heartbreak know, life doesn’t work that way. People are free agents. The charade ends, and we are left picking up the pieces. We are left exchanging the glances Stefani and Kanal exchange in the video, and inside, we are yelling like Gwen in the chorus, ” ’cause it hurts,” as she says.

The imagery and emotion in the video are on point. There is always interesting detail and symbolism in how the videos are structured. If you want to go there, have a listen:

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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