Artwork for non-US commercial releases
|Single by No Doubt|
|from the album Tragic Kingdom|
|Released||April 15, 1996|
|No Doubt singles chronology|
"Don't Speak" is a song by the American ska band No Doubt from their third studio album Tragic Kingdom (1995). It was released on April 15, 1996 in the United States as the third single from Tragic Kingdom. Lead singer Gwen Stefani and her brother Eric Stefani, former No Doubt member, wrote the song originally as a love song. The song went through several rewrites and new versions. Gwen modified it into a breakup song about her bandmate and ex-boyfriend Tony Kanal shortly after he ended their seven-year relationship.
Despite the song's popularity, "Don't Speak" did not chart on the US Billboard Hot 100 (as rules of the times required commercial singles for charting and one was not issued for the song), but it did reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay for sixteen weeks. Outside the United States, the song topped the charts in Australia, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom, becoming No Doubt's most successful international single. "Don't Speak" was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
"Don’t Speak" was ranked at number 495 on Blender magazine's "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". The song is a playable track in the 2009 video game Band Hero, and is also included as a downloadable song in 2008's Rock Band 2. The song has been sampled by multiple hip-hop artists, including in Rakim's song "Dedicated", and Ice Cube's "War & Peace".
Background and writing
The song was written by Gwen Stefani and Eric Stefani, and produced by Matthew Wilder. Originally a love song, Gwen rewrote the lyrics almost completely after her break up with the band's bassist Tony Kanal. According to Gwen, "It used to be more upbeat, more of a Seventies rock-type thing. [When] Tony and I broke up... it turned into a sad song."  A live version that exists from April 1994 shows off a bouncy tune that has the same skeleton as the released version, but not the same urgency. The band performed part of the original song on VH1 Storytellers on August 10, 2000.
The band's guitarist Tom Dumont said about the song's composition:
There’s a lot of stories about that song, because that one unfolded over a longer period of time. Originally, Gwen’s brother wrote most of that song, and then after we got at it as a band, Gwen changed the lyrics around to fit her life. Musically, we brought it to another level, but near the end we reworded it. There’s an earlier version of the song where the verses are totally different, which is a really beautiful version and it’s awesome but it’s way more jazzy and really different. That song had a long incubation process.
Upon release, the song immediately began to receive extensive airplay, and it became the most widely played song on American radio in 1996. Not surprisingly, the song reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay, and maintained that position for 16 non-consecutive weeks, a record at the time. Although the record would be broken in 1998 by the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" with 18 weeks at number one, the song remains in second place of songs with the most weeks at number one on the Hot 100 Airplay. For all its airplay though, the song was not allowed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 as no commercial single was released for it in the U.S. (a requirement for charting purposes at the time).
The song was also a hit on No Doubt's main radio format at the time, Modern Rock Tracks, where it climbed to number two for five consecutive weeks, almost hitting number one with one spot behind Stefani's future husband, Gavin Rossdale with his band Bush hitting number one for seven consecutive weeks on the chart with their hit single, "Swallowed" and "Don't Speak" stayed at number two for five consecutive weeks on the issue dated, November 30, 1996. The song also proved to be a crossover hit, reaching number one on the Adult Top 40 for 15 consecutive weeks as well as numbers six and nine on the Adult Contemporary and Rhythmic Top 40 charts, respectively. It was ultimately placed at number one on the Hot 100 Airplay year-end chart of 1997.
Internationally, the song was also very successful. In February 1997, it peaked at number one in both the United Kingdom and Ireland for three weeks. Elsewhere in Europe, "Don't Speak" reached the top position in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Australia was another major music market where the song received widespread airplay, debuting at number one and maintaining the peak position for eight weeks.
Before the music starts, at the beginning of the music video, there is a scene of Kanal picking a rotten orange from a tree (these scenes are usually cut out when VH1 airs this video). The majority of the music video for "Don't Speak" takes place on Stage 2 at Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake as the band plays. Other scenes tell the story of how the media mainly focused on Stefani while the band was always in the background. The second half of the video features snippets of live footage filmed during the band's performance with Dog Eat Dog and Goldfinger at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City on August 21, 1996. The video also features a short footage showing Tom Dumont playing together with Foo Fighters' guitarist Pat Smear. The video ends with Kanal replacing the orange in the tree, which is actually footage of Kanal in reverse pulling the orange off.
Tensions in the band had been running high, and they reportedly were on the verge of breaking up the day before they were scheduled to film the video. They decided to go ahead and film it as a form of "therapy".
The video won the award for Best Group Video and was nominated for Video of the Year at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. It has over 570 million views on YouTube as of August 2018, and 178 million of the views come from 2017 alone.
There is an alternate version of the video showing just the live performance part. Both versions of the video are included on the DVD The Videos 1992–2003.
Track listing and formats
UK and European CD single UK cassette single
- "Don't Speak" – 4:23
- "Greener Pastures" (from The Beacon Street Collection album) – 5:05
UK, European, Australian, and Japanese CD maxi single
- "Don't Speak" – 4:23
- "Don't Speak" (Alternate Version) – 4:23 (*)
- "Hey You" (Acoustic Version) – 3:25 (*)
- "Greener Pastures" (from The Beacon Street Collection album) – 5:05
UK limited 7" single
- A. "Don't Speak" – 4:23
- B. "Greener Pastures" – 5:05
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Gold||25,000*|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||2× Platinum||20,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||1,007,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|United States||April 15, 1996|
|United Kingdom||February 10, 1997|
|Netherlands||November 30, 1996|
- Sinéad Quinn performed it on the UK BBC TV series Fame Academy in 2002.
- Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek released a cover version in 2005 on her album Secret.
- In 2012, it was covered by various members of the Glee cast for the episode "The Break Up" before subsequently being released as a single on iTunes.
- On March 15, 2013, singer Fatin Shidqia performed "Don't Speak" on week 4 episode of X Factor Indonesia.
- Leela James also covers "Don't Speak" on her album A Change Is Gonna Come.
- In 2013, Jiordan Tolli performed the song on the fifth season of The X Factor Australia during week six. Her performance gained positive feedback from the judges.
- Rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony sampled Gwen Stefani's vocals from the song on their song "U N Me (Together Alwayz)". Their song was recorded during the sessions of their 2007 album Strength & Loyalty but it did not make the album. It was later released on the compilation album, Uni5 the Prequel: The Untold Story as a digital album bonus track.
- DJ Promo (1997), Hardcore version cover.
- Christian Rock band Write This Down had recorded a rock version of this song as part of their 2012 album Lost Weekend.
- Sarah Menescal performs a soft jazz version of the track on the album "Jazz And '90s" released in 2006.
- American metal band New Years Day performs a cover version for their 2018 EP Diary of a Creep.
- Dance label Almighty Records released an uplifting pop/house cover of the song using an unnamed session singer under the project name Deja Vu
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