It’s been over 25 years since No Doubt released their non-debut ‘Debut Album’ Tragic Kingdom. I loved this album when it came out; I was six years old, and I borrowed (stole) my cool big sister’s copy and played the CD until it was scratched and unusable.
Tragic Kingdom was actually No Doubt’s third studio album, but it was the band’s first eruption of massive success. Their previous offerings (a self titled album in 1992 and The Beacon Street Collection in 1995) garnered the band local success and sales in the tens of thousands.
Tragic Kingdom was a very different beast. The album sold 16 million copies and earned the band two Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album and Best New Artist. The album had an intimidating seven singles.
The power of Gwen Stefani is completely un-fuckable-with. Still when I listen to Tragic Kingdom, I think, ‘It’s so wild that this was successful.’ It’s all howling vocals, stacked and incessant, hyper-expressed-girl-feeling lyrics, horns, Gwen kind of, ahem, raps sometimes, the solos are laboured and annoying, but Gwen’s magic is effervescent and sparkly. Every track on this album explodes with her energy and emotion, and makes this album an undeniable classic.
The photographs from the album cover and the imagery of a tragic kingdom were centred around Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where the band members grew up.
On original viewing of this album art, at age six, I was confused by the rotting oranges on the cover and always thought they were choc-chip cookies. When I revisited Tragic Kingdom as a teenager I was finally able to comprehend the (admittedly not very complex) imagery of a California’s exports going to rot. Oranges; Disneyland; blondes with tans.
I revisited this album again in my early twenties, when I started going to house parties and people would put on ‘Just a Girl’ during nostalgic iPod DJ sets, and roll over into ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Don’t Speak’ (when things got emotional).
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Still, I give this album a spin at least once a month. Because it is full of feelings. It is unlike anything else. And it is confusingly good.
Below are my favourite tracks, at the time of publishing, ranked. What are your favourites from this album?