Don't Speak
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Don't Speak
"Don't Speak"
Don't Speak.jpg
Artwork for non-US commercial releases
Single by No Doubt
from the album Tragic Kingdom
  • "Hey You! (acoustic version)"
  • "Greener Pastures"
ReleasedApril 15, 1996
Matthew Wilder
No Doubt singles chronology
"Don't Speak"
"Excuse Me Mr."
Audio sample

"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.[1][2]

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".[3] 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." [4] 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.[1]

It is composed in the key of C minor and F minor. A demo version also appeared on a demo CD, which was presented to Interscope Records prior to the release of the Tragic Kingdom album.[5]

Chart performance

Upon release, the song immediately began to receive extensive airplay, and it became the most widely played song on American radio in 1996.[6] 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.[7] 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). Slate magazine music critic Chris Molanphy has stated that if the song had been eligible to chart, it almost certainly would have claimed the number one spot.[8]

The song also stayed at number two on Modern Rock Tracks for five consecutive weeks,[9] blocked by the band Bush's single "Swallowed". 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.[9] It was ultimately placed at number one on the Hot 100 Airplay year-end chart of 1997.[10]

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.

Music video

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.[11] 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 680 million views on YouTube as of May 2019, and 460 million of the views come from 2016, 2017 and 2018 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

  1. "Don't Speak" - 4:23
  2. "Greener Pastures" (from The Beacon Street Collection album) - 5:05

UK, European, Australian, and Japanese CD maxi singleyou

  1. "Don't Speak" - 4:23
  2. "Don't Speak" (Alternate Version) - 4:23 (*)
  3. "Hey You" (Acoustic Version) - 3:25 (*)
  4. "Greener Pastures" (from The Beacon Street Collection album) - 5:05

(*) Recorded at York Street Studios, Auckland, New Zealand, September 1996.

UK limited 7" single

A. "Don't Speak" - 4:23
B. "Greener Pastures" - 5:05



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[60] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[61] Gold 25,000*
Belgium (BEA)[62] Platinum 50,000*
France (SNEP)[64] Gold 286,000[63]
Germany (BVMI)[65] Platinum 500,000^
Italy (FIMI)[66] Gold 25,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[67] Gold 50,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[68] 2× Platinum 20,000*
Sweden (GLF)[69] Gold 15,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[70] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[72] 2× Platinum 1,007,000[71]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history

Country Date
United States April 15, 1996
Netherlands November 30, 1996
United Kingdom February 10, 1997

Cover versions


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External links

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