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