Jewel – 0304

Jewel - 0304Y’know, when she started out in the mid-1990s, I used to defend Jewel against the popular “Hippie Spice” insult that was often hurled her way, as I really liked that first album of hers, and even liked the second. A couple of years ago, I was a bit more ambivalent about her third album. And now?

Well…uh…I still really like her first album. 0304, on the other hand, spins her off in a completely different direction into a different style of music, and I’m not really sure it suits her …but hey, it’s her career. 0304 opens with “Stand”, sort of a middle-ground between her old, faux-folky lyrical style and her new musical style, as if this is supposed to ease us into the transition. (Hint: it does not.) What follows is basically an album of club rhythms over which Jewel sings some decidedly light-headed lyrics (i.e. “you plus me equals l-o-v-e”), abandoning her previous style of thoughtful and heartfelt lyrics (even if they weren’t necessarily comprehensible in a literal sense). Now she’s singing about a club where the music’s pumpin’ and the bodies are jumpin’…oooookay.

Not all of the songs grate on my nerves – “Run 2 U” reminded me rather pleasantly of the Moody Blues’ drum-machine-driven “English Summer” – but what really bugs me with 0304 is not the change in style, but the radical change in personality. According to all of the press material surrounding this album, Jewel came to her club music epiphany of her own free will, but something about 0304 fairly reeks of corporate interference. “Jewel wants to do another album? Well, that’s great, but can she go from mild acoustic/electric folk-rock to some sexy club music instead? That’d be great. And let’s get to sing through the exact same effects filter as Britney Spears, I love that sound! Great. Let’s do lunch sometime.” (And no, I’m not kidding about the filtered vocals – note to producer: if I wanted to listen to Britney Spears, I’d listen to bleedin’ Britney Spears.)

2 out of 4I have no problem with artists reinventing themselves – hell, Madonna started working with William Orbit and came up with my favorite stuff from her in years – but something’s rotten in the state of Denmark here. I really hope Jewel’s “club music epiphany” is short-lived. Not that I don’t like that style of music, but there are people out there doing it so much better than she is.

Order this CD

  1. Stand (3:15)
  2. Run 2 U (3:39)
  3. Intuition (3:54)
  4. Leave The Lights On (3:23)
  5. 2 Find U (3:16)
  6. Fragile Heart (3:33)
  7. Doin’ Fine (3:14)
  8. 2 Become 1 (4:40)
  9. Haunted (4:53)
  10. Sweet Temptation (4:09)
  11. Yes U Can (4:01)
  12. U & Me = LOVE (3:37)
  13. America (3:43)
  14. Becoming (4:22)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 53:39

Jewel – This Way

Jewel - This WayLove her or hate her, Jewel is back. I admit to liking quite a bit – but not all – of Jewel’s past work, but I can also see where there’s a bit of pop culture backlash against her trying-almost-too-hard-to-be-earnest style. And to some degree, wisely, she sheds some – but not all – of that style in her latest album.

“Standing Still”, which also led the album as its first single, starts things off with a burst of raw energy which carries Jewel firmly out of the wanna-be folkster category and into rock ‘n’ roll territory. Some might be a bit dubious about this transition, but she actually carries it off well – her voice is capable of pulling it off respectably.

Other standout tracks include L”ove Me, Just Leave Me Alone”, “Serve The Ego”, and “Everybody Needs Someone Sometime”, all of which feature something of the same rocky feel as “Standing Still” to varying degrees. On other tracks, such as “Break Me”, Jewel retains her signature style, proving for the doubters that perhaps she hasn’t changed as much as you might think.

Overall, there’s actually a pretty good balance of new Jewel and old Jewel, stylistically speaking, and there are even a few live tracks thrown in at the end of the album just to mix things up even more. Still, there’s something missing – the ballads don’t come close to reaching the eloquence of “Amen” or “Deep Water”, and the rockier numbers somehow aren’t on the same plateau as, say, “Down So Long” or “Who Will Save Your Soul”. It’s just possible that Jewel has run out of inspiration and is falling back on old tricks to fill things out. The 3 out of 4press material for This Way made a point of telling us that Jewel had been burned out on touring and promotions during the publicity trail for her second album, and retreated from performing for a while to recoup her energies; This Way, while certainly listenable in places, comes across as a bit hollow both musically and lyrically. Maybe Jewel wasn’t quite ready to come back.

Order this CD

  1. Standing Still (4:29)
  2. Jesus Loves You (4:20)
  3. Everybody Needs Someone Sometime (4:08)
  4. Break Me (4:03)
  5. Do You Want To Play? (2:55)
  6. Till We Run Out Of Road (4:45)
  7. Serve The Ego (4:57)
  8. This Way (4:16)
  9. Cleveland (4:09)
  10. I Won’t Walk Away (4:46)
  11. Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone (3:47)
  12. The New Wild West (5:05)
  13. Grey Matter (4:40)
  14. Sometimes It Be That Way (4:21)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 59:41

Jewel – Spirit

Jewel - SpiritWhen I picked up Jewel’s sophomore effort, I worried that it was bound to be affected to some degree by the success of her previous album, but pleasantly, though it echoes the same signature sound, it isn’t Pieces Of You, Part II. In a very short time, Spirit has earned my respect with such memorable songs as “Deep Water”, “Down So Long” (the closest this album comes to the grittier sound of “Who Will Save Your Soul?”, which is actually the song that made me sit up and pay attention to Jewel), and the first single, “Hands”. If anything, Jewel’s lyrical skill has intensified on this album, but in a few places it seems as though the edge of the music composition has suffered. Some of the songs are very predictable in the 3 out of 4instrumental department, and end up being carried by the vocal alone, which seems like a slight letdown after some of the well-composed music on Jewel’s first album. Though this is still a solid collection, I think Jewel will need to concentrate more on the music for the next album, and may have to invent a slightly new sound to avoid creating a sonic signature that makes every album or song sound the same.

Order this CD

  1. Deep Water (4:16)
  2. What’s Simple Is True (3:34)
  3. Hands (3:54)
  4. Kiss The Flame (3:17)
  5. Down So Long (4:13)
  6. Innocence Maintained (4:08)
  7. Jupiter (4:18)
  8. Fat Boy (2:54)
  9. Enter From The East (4:02)
  10. Barcelona (3:53)
  11. Life Uncommon (4:56)
  12. Do You (4:21)
  13. Absence of Fear (3:43)
  14. This Little Bird (2:43)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 53:56

Jewel – Pieces Of You

Jewel - Pieces Of YouThis girl’s just now hitting it big, and this album has been out for two years!? Amazing. Her presence on Atlantic seems to make it likely that the label sought her out as a kind of folksy Tori Amos clone, but Jewel is much more than that. I will admit that the single “Who Will Save Your Soul” mesmerized me into buying this album, and I’m glad it did. There are several live tracks that really come across as average, but the last song, “Amen”, is really where Jewel comes into her own and proves that she could indeed be the next Tori Amos without being a Tori clone. She abandons the folky style that has come to be her trademark and does 3 out of 4some truly beautiful singing, particularly as the tune draws to a close. Even if you don’t particularly care for her singles or her album so far, I think this is one to watch in the future. Highly recommended, even if only for the last track on the album!

Order this CD

  1. Who Will Save Your Soul (4:00)
  2. Pieces of You (4:15)
  3. Little Sister (2:29)
  4. Foolish Games (5:39)
  5. Near You Always (3:08)
  6. Painters (6:43)
  7. Morning Song (3:35)
  8. Adrian (7:02)
  9. I’m Sensitive (2:54)
  10. You Were Meant For Me (4:13)
  11. Don’t (3:34)
  12. Daddy (3:49)
  13. Angel Standing By (2:38)
  14. Amen (4:32)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1994
Total running time: 58:56