20 years later, Gwen Stefani still smashes a break-up or long, hard goodbye record as her latest single “Used to Love You” proves. While not explicitly declared, the track has to be influenced by the recent announcement of her divorce from Gavin Rossdale. They were a couple for nearly 20 years and married for thirteen years. Together, they have three boys.
For her new song, Stefani honestly reflects on how baffling it is that in a relationship the same person that granted you the experience of that inexplicable but unconditional “I’m in love” gut sensation to that other gut feeling of a bleeding heart due to heartbreak and raw sadness. Any fan of hers knows that when this “Orange County Girl” gets her pain onto paper, her paramour(s) are placed on a world stage to receive our disappointment because she was the Taylor Swift of the ’90s. If you broke her heart, you were going to get (dignifiedly) roasted.
Hence in 1995, with the band No Doubt, Stefani released Tragic Kingdom which contained a handful of lyrical kiss-offs to former boyfriend and bandmate Tony Kanal. He broke up with her after seven years of dating during the making of the album. She was devastated, but No Doubt gained their biggest hit with “Don’t Speak” that featured crystalline recollections of how burnt she felt. (But they’re still in the band and actual friends, as her song “Cool” is about journey). Coincidentally, “Used to Love You” is one of her strongest songs in awhile and musically for this track, she’s back to that place she was in what probably feels so long ago for her. Rossdale was also the inspiration behind the No Doubt track “Ex-Girlfriend” in 2000 as they had a momentary breakup and she purred: “I hope I hold a special place with the rest of them.” *sting*
In “Used to Love You” it is the bridge right before the chorus that gets you. Stefani sings “Suitcase, band aids, pulling back out the driveway. You go. I’ll stay. You can keep all the memories.” She even admits afterwards, “I thought I was the best that ever happened to you. I thought you loved me the most.” Those two lines could be construed as arrogant, but view it as how that person, in this case Rossdale, made her feel and likely told her on the regular for a time. How quickly they do forget.
The video, described as “stunning” by Entertainment Weekly, is simply just Gwen Stefani’s face reacting to the lyrics, or better yet, her thoughts translated as lyrics for us. She’s been “serious” in videos before, like for her underrated ballad “4 In the Morning”, but she doesn’t even lip sync here for her newest. Just once where she backlashes with “I guess nobody taught you…Nobody taught you how to love.” Very Madonna, as for 1989’s “Til Death Do Us Part”, she pronounced “You’re not in love with someone else. You don’t even love yourself.” Then, she too was singing about her divorce and former husband, Sean Penn.
Watch the video below. It’s so good. And underneath is the live performance from her MasterCard sponsored concert at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom where she debuted the song and clip.