Why It's Time No Doubt Makes A Comeback In 2016

After just over a year of hiatus, No Doubt returned to the stage in late 2014 for the Global Citizen Festival, which also featured Beyonce, Jay Z, Sting, and Alicia Keys. The Gwen Stefani-fronted group played a 45-minute set, in the words of Billboard, "as if it were January 2002." The appearance kicked off a selective touring schedule in 2015 that included a reprisal at this year's Global Citizen and a gig at Rock in Rio USA in May. Though No Doubt's appearances this year were limited, the few shows they did play prove that No Doubt should make a massive comeback in 2016.

The image of Stefani poised gracefully on the cover of Tragic Kingdom, hip cocked and clad in a red pinup dress with matching pumps, bears as much cultural weight as the two massive singles — "Don't Speak" and "Just A Girl" — the record spawned. Tragic Kingdom, which premiered in 1995 is widely regarded as responsible for No Doubt's crossover into the mainstream. The record just celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and those tracks remain the most popular streams for the band's Spotify account, raking in a collective 65 million listens. It might look like the band's best work is already behind them, but if their recent flurry of activity is any indicator, this is just the beginning.

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Stefani herself has never really retreated from the spotlight, which poises her band all the better for a return to the status they enjoyed in the late '90s and early '00s. She appeared on stage with Pharrell at Coachella last year, with whom she went on to coach The Voice. During the No Doubt hiatus, she collaborated with Pharrell, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Snoop Dogg, Adam Levine, and Calvin Harris. She's always juggled her solo career with her work with No Doubt: her first solo album coincided with the band's first hiatus; her second solo album The Sweet Escape came out in 2006, and the band began work on its 2012 release Push and Shove in 2008. Both Stefani and No Doubt have been busy lately, hinting at a big year to come.

Stefani just wrapped her second season coaching The Voice — she first appeared on the music competition during its seventh season, and filled in again for season nine while Christina Aguilera took a break. Last year, she hinted to MTV News that she may be working on both solo material and a new album with No Doubt. Now free from television obligations, she has the space to focus on music once more. The band is notoriously slow to produce new records (it took over a decade for No Doubt to follow up 2001's Rock Steady with Push and Shove). But the timeline fits: The rumors of new material have built sufficient anticipation that it seems like the perfect time for the nostalgic '90s favorite to return to the stage in earnest.

Which brings us to their recent festival appearances: Priming audiences for a tour, perhaps? The band went on hiatus for hardly a year before reuniting to perform live, but there's only so far that rehashing old material can propel them forward. While the quickest route to a comeback would be a new album and accompanying tour, their return to the spotlight might just entail a more vigorous touring schedule. In any case, the recent stage appearances prove that they've still got it.

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Band members have given conflicting testimony about the prospect of a new record. Late last year, Gigwise wrote "sources claimed" Stefani had discussed a new No Doubt album in addition to a planned solo release. Yet speaking to Billboard a couple months later, drummer Adrian Young said, "We don't have any immediate plans for new music. ... Gwen's gonna do another solo record and we're gonna continue to play some more live shows and see what happens from there." Then, in August, Mic explained that Stefani had never really planned to return to solo work when she landed a spot judging The Voice and when No Doubt reunited. So even though she has continued to pursue a solo career, the conflicting reports indicate that No Doubt is still a priority for all involved. (Or, at least, it's a priority for the fans and media outlets propagating the rumors. That could be just as important in motivating the band to push a new album into the world.)

Thursday night, Gwen Stefani will perform during a televised special to ring in 2016. With one successful single, "Used to Love You," behind her this year, her appearance looks almost like she's laying claim to the new year. (Though this year, that position is menaced by pretty much every high-profile artist around: Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Travis Scott all have released or will release new material at some point on New Year's Eve 2015.) But Thursday night's show could be just the beginning of a massive 2016 for Stefani and No Doubt.