Gwen Stefani – “Misery” (Singles Going Steady)

"Misery" isn't a total misfire, but its formulaic diva-pop effervescence does little to convince you that music's mainstream was missing Stefani.

Emmanuel Elone: “You’re like drugs / You’re like drugs to me.” It’s 2016; when will the drug/love metaphor finally die? On “Misery”, Gwen Stefani’s latest single, the pop star seems to be trying (and failing) to regain the relevance and popularity that she lost by the late 2000s. Along with the aforementioned love/drug metaphor, Gwen Stefani’s lyrics are a hodgepodge of cliches and hyperboles wrapped up in a bowtie made up of false emotions. “Put me out of my misery”, “I’m in trouble”, and “I’m trying not to care” are just a few of the generic lines that Stefani beats her listeners over the head with as the verses transition into the chorus. It’s pretty sad, actually, since not only does Gwen Stefani have a great voice for pop music, but because the beat was actually spectacular in its own right. As the boomy drums provide the heartbeat of the song, finger snap sounding snares give it an extra kick, making the song even flirt very slightly with a funk-inspired rhythm at points. So while I’m pretty sure that “Misery” isn’t going to bring Gwen Stefani back into pop relevance, it has enough good things going for it to be an average listen at worst, and decent at best. [6/10]

Chris Conaton: Gwen Stefani is made up to look like Ariana Grande in the close-ups in this video. That is very strange. The other thing that’s strange about this video is it’s one of those clips that seems like there might have been a narrative concept at some point. But that concept was lost in favor of three dancing men and Gwen going around an abandoned building in fabulous costumes. As for the song itself, I like it. The subdued verses are catchy and the big ass chorus is a strong hook. The pre-chorus, where she repeats “You’re like drugs to me” is awkward. I really dig the ending where the bridge “You’re in so much trouble” comes back as a counter-melody. 7/10

Pryor Stroud: Gwen Stefani was slowly slipping into pop’s firmament until she released this year’s straight-laced, eager-for-the-limelight This Is What the Truth Feels Like, her first solo album in a decade. “Misery” isn’t a total misfire, but its formulaic diva-pop effervescence does little to convince you that music’s mainstream was missing Stefani and her gleefully gaudy sonic style. Yet, even still, the former ain’t-no Hollaback Girl’s voice remains something to behold: oscillating between a tomboy punk-pout and a sumptuous, stadium-filling blast, what it lacks in nuance it makes up for with sheer melodic distinctiveness. That said, “Misery” isn’t the only display of this vocal talent available; perhaps it’s best to look elsewhere. [5/10]

Chris Ingalls: Stefani’s not breaking any new ground, and has crafted what can only be described as a nice, well-produced pop/dance song. She’s in fine voice and the heavy synths and stomping beat provide a nice atmosphere. She’s come a long way from her SoCal ska roots, and while part of me wishes she’d just go ahead and make a Tragic Kingdom Part 2, I guess if she’s going to be a pop/dance singer, this will fit the bill. [6/10]

Jedd Beaudoin: It’d be easy to offer a pithy little statement about this, so I won’t. Instead I’ll just say that this isn’t my cup of tea. Too much about the production and the sheen and not enough about the content. Sorry, Gwen. Once upon a time I could have been your biggest fan. [5/10]

Chad Miller: Decent pop song. Every section of the song is pretty good, but I’d say many of the sections don’t connect to each other very well. Sometimes there just seems to be a random jump. Some of the choruses also seemed to be underproduced. The big finale seems to make up for it though. [7/10]

SCORE: 6.00