No Doubt

Simple Kind of Life

Song Review by

Since their arrival in the mid-'90s, pop-ska group No Doubt became renowned for their adrenaline-pumping, frenetic music. The band's first chart hit, the tongue-in-cheek "Just a Girl," from 1995's smash hit Tragic Kingdom, became a rowdy and rebellious anthem for young girls, who were quick to agree with the song's message that women are string puppets, resigned to a life of obedience and non-expression. Apart from another of their hits, the ballad "Don't Speak," No Doubt's music remained, thus far, brash, unapologetic pop-ska fare. This all changed in 2000, with the release of Return of Saturn, No Doubt's first studio album since Tragic Kingdom. The critically acclaimed recording marked the most personal album to date by the Southern California band, particularly Gwen Stefani, who penned the autobiographical lyrics. It also showed the group reinventing themselves, shedding some of the ska, incorporating more mainstream rock and revisiting '80s new wave music. Return's second single release, "Simple Kind of Life," embodied all of these changes and provided the set's most intimate piece of work. Its theme -- the desire to settle down and recognition of unhealthy relationship patterns -- and mid-tempo grunge rock sound showed a new and mature No Doubt. Because the band was so deeply rooted in one sound and style, "Simple Kind of Life" marked a great career risk. Fortunately, this musical roll of the dice has a happy ending. "Simple Kind of Life" catapulted to the top of the charts and signified that audiences were receptive to the changes that the evolving band were making. (Other artists are not so lucky in their efforts to introduce listeners to new sounds, as R.E.M. and U2 illustrate. Both mega groups have a string of failed '90s albums, barring U2's 2000 release of All That You Can Leave Behind.) Because No Doubt didn't entirely abandon its pop-ska sound on the rest of Return of Saturn, and slowly introduced audiences to their new style, such songs as "Simple Kind of Life" worked. Not only that, but its intimate subject matter invited fans into Stefani's private life, and a personal connection is something that listeners yearn for in music. "Simple Kind of Life" answered this call, and also provided the singer with an opportunity to be vulnerable to audiences. To that end, the song was a win-win situation that opened up many doors for the band, who can now feel more relaxed to experiment and release other diverse recordings in the future.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Return of Saturn 2000 Interscope 4:16
No Image 2000 My Little Sister's 4:41
No Image 2000 Trauma 4:16
Boom Box 2003 Interscope 4:15
The Singles 1992-2003 2003 Interscope 4:15
Tragic Kingdom/Return of Saturn 2004 Universal / Universal Music 4:16
Icon 2010 Interscope 4:15