Less than three months after releasing their “comeback” album, No Doubt is back in the studio with Shellback, one of the industry’s go-to radio friendly pop producers (see: “Moves Like Jagger,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “I Wanna Go”). After a decade-long hiatus between albums, No Doubt’s “Push and Shove” didn’t incite any of the excitement as suggested by the album’s title and failed to reestablish the band as hitmakers. So, what went wrong?
The first signs of trouble came with the album’s numerous push backs. After reuniting in 2009, No Doubt went on tour after hitting a snag in the studio. Following the tour, the album finally came to fruition, but was held back for release until the fall of this year. Any time a label sits on an album for an extended period of time, it’s an indication that something is wrong. It’s likely Interscope didn’t hear any surefire hits and were pushing for a collaboration with Shellbeck (or one of his cohorts, like Max Martin or Dr. Luke) in the first place. At this point, No Doubt has certainly earned the right to record and release the music they want. However, the rush back to the studio with one of today’s hottest mainstream producers is certainly telling. The majority of “Push and Shove” was produced by Mike “Spike” Stent, who also produced a bulk of No Doubt’s 2001 release, “Rock Steady,” including the hit singles “Hey Baby” and “Underneath It All.” That album went double platinum. “Push and Shove” is struggling to cross 200,000 units, which even in today’s climate, is pretty abysmal for an “eagerly awaited” (or apparently not so) comeback.
It comes down to more than just the music that stalled No Doubt’s return. Yes, the majority of the album lacks the qualities of both the music popular today and what made their past hits huge successes. The project’s first single, “Settle Down,” had the most potential to reintroduce No Doubt to the mainstream market. While it wasn’t an ear worm in the “Call Me Maybe” sense, it was catchy enough and reminiscent of the band’s past hits. Unfortunately, the release was botched from the get go. Instead of releasing a radio edit to iTunes, only the six minute album version was released. While I legally downloaded the (unnecessarily long) single, I also illegally downloaded the radio edit and listened to that far more often. In today’s culture of iPod playlists (whether it be for a party, car ride or the gym), a six minute song drags. It’s fine to include on the album, but not so much for a digital single. Additionally, the single’s debut performance was on the Teen Choice Awards. While this may have been a desperate bid to capture the tween market, it was just… out of place. The 12-year-olds watching the Teen Choice Awards for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are not going to download No Doubt’s new single. Although Gwen looks great for her age, a band of 40-year-olds isn’t going to pique the interest of today’s teens who weren’t even alive for No Doubt’s heyday. The Teen Choice Awards was not the right venue to stage a comeback performance for No Doubt.
The release of the album’s second single was just as messy. After “Settle Down” slid down the chart, the album was released without a current single to support it. The title track, produced by Diplo, was put on iTunes and supported by a video, but never actually pushed as a single (and likely wouldn’t have worked on any format at radio). Instead, “Looking Hot” was released, complete with a Native American-themed video. As you can image, that didn’t go over well and was almost immediately pulled. While this probably resulted in more publicity for No Doubt than they received the entire era, it didn’t translate into sales or radio play. As “Settle Down” was to “Hey Baby,” “Looking Hot” was to “Hella Good”–a less catchy, watered down version of a past hit. Even after the video was pulled, No Doubt performed the single on the American Music Awards and The X Factor in the UK. But, all the controversies and promotion in the world couldn’t save the song or album. So, here we are.
Before the release of this album, No Doubt embarked on a successful greatest hits/comeback tour. But, they can’t go on another one. Unless No Doubt is content with being a legacy act and living off old hits, they need to repackage “Push and Shove” in the first quarter of 2013 and score a hit to support a tour. There is enough material on the album to occupy their fans without having to record an entirely new record. At this point, “No Doubt” needs to tack on their own “Moves Like Jagger.” As history has shown, one hit single is all that’s needed to reignite interest in a faltering project. No Doubt and Gwen still have name recognition and with the right song, could garner support from radio and the music buying public. I believe No Doubt can have a comeback. This just wasn’t it.