Simple Kind Of Life

Album: Return Of Saturn (2000)
Charted: 69 38
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Songfacts®:

  • Gwen Stefani remained very grounded for the first 10 years of No Doubt. Even after the band signed with Interscope Records in 1991, she kept working in a department store. Their debut album in 1992 earned them some regional airplay and a few spins on MTV2, but with scant press attention, Stefani was able to keep the focus on the band and maintain a level of privacy.

    When No Doubt found fame in 1996, it was fast and furious, and all the attention drew to Gwen despite her best efforts to distribute it equally among the band. There was "no doubt" about it: she was a certified, very glamorous, rock star.

    When they started working on their Return Of Saturn album a few years later, Stefani picked up a guitar and "Simple Kind Of Life" poured out of her. It's a very personal song where she expresses that feeling of being overwhelmed when all she ever really wanted was to settle down with a nice guy and become a mom. "Now all those simple things are simply too complicated for my life," she sings.

    "That song defined exactly how I felt during that time period," Stefani said in a Seven Days Of No Doubt video. "It was such a confused time period: my relationship was confusing, everything about myself."

    Gwen was dating Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale at the time, and they got married two years later. They had three kids but divorced in 2015.
  • For many years, Stefani's vision of a simple kind of life was by the side of Tony Kanal, the bass player in No Doubt whom she dated for about six years. The opening lines explain it:

    For a long time I was in love
    Not only in love, I was obsessed


    The No Doubt song "Don't Speak" deals with this conflict of being ex-lovers who must now not only remain friends, but also work together. "Simple Kind Of Love" is a progression where Stefani can look at it with some distance and take lessons from it.

    In the 2005 song "Cool" from Stefani's first solo album, she checks in on her feelings for Kanal. By this time, she had married Gavin Rossdale and Kanal was in a committed relationship. That song has a nostalgic feel; the emotions are still there, but they just have to be "cool" together.
  • The song was produced by Glen Ballard, best known for his work on Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album. They worked on the album at his home studio, and he encouraged the band to keep writing during the sessions. Stefani took his advice, stole off with one of his guitars, and wrote this song on her own. She knew just enough chords to get her musical point across. When she presented it to the band, they were very impressed and recorded it for the album.
  • There was a five-year lag between No Doubt's breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom and their next one, Return Of Saturn, which wasn't released until 2000. That's because it took a year for Tragic Kingdom to find an audience, and when it did, the band had to keep touring to promote it. "Simple Kind Of Life" was the only substantial hit Return Of Saturn, but it was far from their last. Their next album, Rock Steady, got them back on track with the hits "Hey Baby" and "Underneath It All."
  • Sophie Muller, who directed several No Doubt videos (including "Bathwater" and "Sunday Morning"), directed the "Simple Kind Of Life" video. The beginning of the video is very literal: As Stefani sings, "I was in love, not only in love, I was obsessed," she's snuggling with the object of that obsession: No Doubt bass player Tony Kanal - by this time, they had reconciled their love affair and had settled into a productive friendship. The scene then shifts to a wedding and rows of wedding cakes the band sets about destroying with baseball bats, a rather striking image.

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