The Real Meaning Behind No Doubt's Don't Speak

Music fans of a certain age may remember Gwen Stefani strictly for being Gwen Stefani; which is to say, they may only be familiar with her solo career. However, older music fans will almost certainly remember that the "Hollaback Girl" got her start as the lead vocalist of a Southern California ska-punk band named No Doubt. They were prominent in their own right well before Gwen struck out on her own, breaking onto the charts with their album "Tragic Kingdom," according to Orange Coast Magazine. This album included the hits "Just A Girl" and "Spiderwebs."

The album also included what may be the band's biggest song. "Don't Speak." The sorrowful ballad was even nominated for Song of the Year Grammy Award (per CNN), was turned into a downloadable song for the video game "Rock Band 4," and bits of music from the song went on to be sampled by later artists.

Not bad for a mournful dirge about a breakup.

A Breakup Within The Band

No Doubt is not the first band to have members carry on a romantic relationship with one another, have that relationship hit the skids, and then have a hit song written about it. Fleetwood Mac was doing it while the members of No Doubt were probably in elementary school, and Culture Club did the same when the future band was in junior high.

As HuffPost reported in 2013, Gwen Stefani and bandmate Tony Kanal (both pictured above) had been in a relationship since No Doubt was paying its dues and trying to make it as a band. Gwen would later say that she even entertained the idea of marrying Tony. Though their relationship came to an end in 1994, No Doubt was starting to hit it big. This meant that Gwen and Tony would share the same stage, the same tour bus, etc.

"We were on tour for Tragic Kingdom for 28 months. We were going through the breakup ... It was so brutal but I don't know how we made it through," Tony told The Guardian (via HuffPost). "Don't Speak" refers specifically to the fact that Gwen simply didn't want to talk about it anymore.

If there was a silver lining to all of this, it's that the breakup and the writing of this song empowered Gwen as a lyricist. "After the breakup I just started writing all these songs and suddenly I was: 'Oh I think I'm really good at this!'" she said.

The 'Don't Speak' Video Was Surprisingly Prescient

The song "Don't Speak" is one thing; the video accompanying it is another (it can be viewed here via YouTube). As Variety reports, the song is about Gwen and Tony's breakup, while the video is about something else entirely. Specifically, the video references the fact that, as No Doubt was getting big, the media was focusing almost exclusively on Gwen. You can see this represented visually in the form of photos taken of the band (in the video) and then everyone but Gwen is cropped out. The media's focus on Gwen was causing tension in the band, so the video was a sort of therapy as they worked through it.

Of course, the video turned out to be prophetic. The band broke up not long after, although as Tony Kanal would later tell Rolling Stone it was less of a breakup and more of an indefinite hiatus. Gwen, for her part, became a verifiable superstar, while the remaining bandmates haven't had the same kind of lofty success.

For now, it seems as if No Doubt is still a band, at least on paper (in a manner of speaking). The band still have a website featuring Gwen as well as the others, although the last item in their News section dates to 2017 and doesn't mention any reunion tours or anything else a still-together band would do.