The 10 Best No Doubt Songs

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 10 Best No Doubt Songs

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Coachella’s lineup always features at least a few surprises, and this year perhaps the biggest one is No Doubt’s first show since September 2015. “It’s been a long time coming,” vocalist Gwen Stefani recently told Nylon of the band’s return to the stage. “It’s been something that we were going to do.”

No Doubt’s reunion is well-timed, given the ever-present ska resurgence and ’80s music revival, and artists such as Olivia Rodrigo and Chappell Roan carrying on Stefani’s colorful, fearless legacy. (Rodrigo even covered “Just A Girl” back in 2022.) But the appearance comes as No Doubt — which also includes guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young — creep up on the 30th anniversary of their breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom. One of the biggest catalysts of the ’90s ska-punk movement, the album sold millions of copies and made No Doubt massive stars.

“It’s the honest truth that we didn’t expect it to break through and become a success at all,” Dumont told The Orange County Register in 2020. “We were writing the album in such a naive, but good, way. We were writing it for ourselves and to prove something only to ourselves and to make songs that we loved.”

No Doubt toured for several years behind Tragic Kingdom, picking up Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album and Best New Artist along the way, before re-emerging around Y2K with a pair of albums: 2000’s Return Of Saturn and 2001’s Rock Steady, the latter of which netted No Doubt two Grammys. The band have only released one album since then (2012’s Push And Shove), as Stefani launched a successful solo pop career and dabbled in other endeavors (like being a coach on The Voice). No Doubt’s instrumentalists, meanwhile, teamed up with AFI’s Davey Havok to form the criminally underrated new wave revivalists Dreamcar, which quietly released a new EP last week.

The band is hard at work practicing for Coachella, and Stefani for one is looking forward to the gigs. “I already know what it’s going to feel like because we’re just so in sync when we’re onstage,” she told Nylon. “It’s going to feel like riding a bike again. We’re going to be laughing, and we’re going to look at each other and go, ‘Oh my gosh — there you are.'” In the meantime, to remind everyone else what that performance might feel like, here’s a list of No Doubt’s 10 best songs.


"Trapped In A Box" (from No Doubt, 1992)

A thematic precursor to “Just A Girl,” the narrator of “Trapped In A Box” chafes against feeling suffocated by a metaphorical box — the limits imposed upon someone by society’s expectations, say, or rigid stereotypes. It’s top-tier ska-punk No Doubt, with a peppy horn section, high-stepping grooves, and Stefani doing her best 1940s ingenue warble.


"New" (from the Go soundtrack, 1999 and Return Of Saturn, 2000)

No Doubt wrote “New” while touring to promote Tragic Kingdom, which might explain why the song bursts with nervous energy: sparkling synths, stutter-step rhythms, and Stefani’s coquettish vocals. Of course, the song’s subject matter also contributes to the bustling vibe: The lyrics capture the giddy excitement that comes with letting your heart go to a new crush, while Jerry Harrison’s co-production brings out the nerviest side of No Doubt’s rhythm section.


"Sunday Morning" (from Tragic Kingdom, 1995)

After the searing pain of a breakup fades, the next stage of grieving often involves rebuilding your self-confidence — mainly by realizing your ex kind of sucks. That’s the prevailing emotion permeating “Sunday Morning,” which finds Stefani lobbing some pointed barbs (“Thank you, now you’re the parasite”) as she realizes her former partner just isn’t worth it. It’s also one of No Doubt’s most dynamic songs, one that alternates between careening punk and languid ska.


"It's My Life" (from The Singles 1992–2003, 2003)

A top 40 hit in 1984, “It’s My Life” embodied the desperation and melancholy at the heart of Talk Talk, the Mark Hollis-led UK art-rock band. No Doubt’s cover tapped into the song’s underlying messages — feeling uncertainty within a relationship and an urgent longing to assert your individuality — with luxurious keyboards and sleek production, giving it more contemporary polish.


"Ex-Girlfriend" (from Return Of Saturn, 2000)

Return Of Saturn was “a really challenging record to make because we felt a lot of pressure coming off of Tragic Kingdom,” Kanal told Complex. “It was such a big record, and we were like, ‘We’ve got to prove ourselves as songwriters, as musicians.'” That pressure did lead to diamonds: The last song added to the album, the frantic punk anthem “Ex-Girlfriend” flips the script on the usual post-breakup narrative — and finds the protagonist resigned to the fact that she should’ve seen the relationship breakdown coming before they even started dating.


"Hella Good" (from Rock Steady, 2001)

Return Of Saturn was a lot of pressure, and Rock Steady was the exact opposite,” Kanal told Complex. “It was like, ‘Who gives a fuck, I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore, let’s have a good time.'” Accordingly, No Doubt wrote and recorded the album quickly — within a year from start to finish — and took inspiration from upbeat music, including dancehall, reggae, and ’80s new wave. The twirling “Hella Good” embodies Rock Steady’s positive vibes, with flirty lyrics about a dance floor dalliance and an electro-punk sound with sassy vocals, complete with exaggerated heavy breathing.


"Simple Kind Of Life" (from Return Of Saturn, 2000)

Stefani wrote “Simple Kind Of Life” herself — and it’s a stunning, vulnerable song about the tension between maintaining a career and wanting to start a family, particularly when your life feels big and out of control. (“Now all those simple things/ Are simply too complicated for my life.”) Her willingness to grapple with the nuances of this imbalance led to some sobering conclusions (“How’d I get so faithful to my freedom?/ A selfish kind of life”) that you didn’t necessarily hear in other pop songs. Accordingly, Stefani communicates these complexities with grace and empathy, via an aching vocal performance.


"Spiderwebs" (from Tragic Kingdom, 1995)

A co-write between Kanal and Stefani, the towering “Spiderwebs” was the first track on Tragic Kingdom. Amidst a confetti shower of dramatic horns, the ska-punk gem frames up a very common occurrence: avoiding someone you don’t want to talk to. The persistent caller doesn’t get the hint that their communication is unwelcome, leading to some of No Doubt’s best lines: “Sorry I’m not home right now/ I’m walking into spiderwebs/ So leave a message/ And I’ll call you back.” In other words, the narrator will likely be stuck for a while — and the adage “don’t call us, we’ll call you” applies.


"Don't Speak" (from Tragic Kingdom, 1995)

Fleetwood Mac isn’t the only band with iconic songs about intra-band heartbreak. Stefani wrote the lyrics of “Don’t Speak” in the aftermath of her split with long-term boyfriend Tony Kanal, pouring her anguish, sadness, and disappointment into a brutally honest song detailing the emotional hurricane of a rough breakup — the kind where no words or explanation can make the hurt go away.

“It was so real, and we were living it, all that stuff came up in that song,” Kanal told Complex years later. “That’s the real deal. That’s our lives, and that’s what was happening to us at that time. It was a very, very intense period of our lives, and it was all put out there to share with everybody.” Stefani’s brother Eric wrote the music before he left the band, and while “Don’t Speak” ended up evolving somewhat from the original version sonically, its fluttering Spanish guitar and torchy, sob-in-your-bedroom power ballad arrangement amplified the pain.


"Just A Girl" (from Tragic Kingdom, 1995)

With its rainbow-hued guitars, ’80s synths, and restless pop-punk energy, “Just A Girl” was compared favorably to new wave icons Devo and the Cars. But its rallying cry — the narrator is fed up with being underestimated, undermined, and misunderstood because of her gender — struck a nerve: “Just A Girl” was one of the defining feminist anthems of the ’90s alt-rock movement, with Stefani using withering sarcasm and righteous indignation to eviscerate negative stereotypes and misconceptions.

“Just A Girl” resonated so deeply in no small part because Stefani wrote the lyrics based on her own experience: being a twentysomething still living at home with strict parents. “I would have to come home and knock my parents’ door,” she said in a 2017 video. “And it was frustrating because I was already, like, older.” In fact, she was dating Kanal at the time — and her dad still chided her for driving home from his house late at night.

The idea that she was unsafe because she was a woman also made a deep impression, Stefani said in 2017. “I can remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’m in the car right now, I’m driving home, it’s like one in the morning and if something did happen to me, I’m vulnerable because I’m a girl.’ And you start to think, ‘Wow, maybe people actually look at me different because I am a female.'” In the end, “Just A Girl” was No Doubt’s first top 40 hit in the US and has evolved into a standard. It’s the kind of instantly recognizable classic that could be trailerized by Florence And The Machine for Yellowjackets nearly two decades later, timeless but also expertly triangulated to the show’s mid-’90s moment.

Listen to the selections as a playlist:

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