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    Become fan 66 Comment 146 Rate 9 Like & Share
    Genre:Rock, Ethnic/Folk, Country, Pop
    Rank:559 history »
    4.3/5 from 9 users

    Most Popular Songs (more)

    3,454 5.0/5
    Foolish Games lyrics
    4,899 4.4/5
    You Were Meant For Me lyrics
    5,544 4.7/5
    Pieces Of You lyrics
    7,841 4.7/5
    Who Will Save Your Soul lyrics
    5Barcelona lyrics
    6I Hate Valentine's Day lyrics
    Leave The Lights On lyrics
    Amen lyrics
    Quest For Love lyrics
    Violet Eyes lyrics

    Most Popular Albums (more)

    634 3.7/5
    Spirit [1998]
    748 4.2/5
    Pieces Of You [1995]
    4,622 3.7/5
    Lullaby [2009]
    6,203 5.0/5
    Goodbye Alice In Wonderland [2006]
    Picking Up The Pieces [2015]
    8,346 5.0/5
    Greatest Hits [2013]
    Joy: A Holiday Collection [1999]
    This Way [2001]
    9Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection
    0304 [2003]


    If folk music's fatal weakness is naivete, Alaska's Jewel Kilcher is the genre's living martyr. At her debut, the fresh-faced 19-year-old was the folk heroine ready for pop fame. Pieces of You proved that Jewel could write a beautiful melody and sing with a conviction and accomplishment beyond her years, and also that she was as hopelessly pained and wide-eyed about social and cultural issues as Natalie Merchant is about political ones. Scornfully equating poor nutritional choices with lack of spiritual fulfillment ("Little Sister"); railing gently against looksism in the embarrassing title song ("Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her/'cause she's pieces of you?"); sympathizing with the elderly ("Painters"): Jewel is firmly on the side of the angels. But her "issue" songs can't match the beautiful simplicity of her love songs, notably "Morning Song" and the sweet, lilting hits "Who Will Save Your Soul," "Foolish Games," and "You Were Meant for Me." There are plenty of sparklers that didn't crack the charts -- the lovely, rambling "Near You Always" and the slow lament "Don't."

    Insofar as there was anything wrong with Pieces of You, it wasn't the scatty production, whose rough edges gave Jewel's pretty melodies an admirable folk grit. On her followup recording, released in tandem with her first book of poetry, Nights Without Armor, she enlists slick pop producer Patrick Leonard to upsize her sound, fill out the band, and turn the intimate pieces into smooth contemporary hits. Jewel's weakness -- her stubbornly girlish point of view toward grand subjects -- was merely allowed to flourish. So now she's comparing a broken heart to "grape gum on the ground," seeing the fragile flame inside a "Fat Boy," speculating on the psychosexual component of Hitler's behavior, and telling the world that "we're all okay." While one thanks her for this endorsement, the sensitive-but-clear-eyed-child act wears thin. Then again, the woman writing the songs just becomes more proficient; she can't not write a melody, even when she tries (on the wafting "Kiss the Flame" and the repetitive wordplay of "Jupiter"). The drift away from folk allows Jewel to showcase the strength in her delicate voice, particularly on the popping "Down So Long" and the half-talked "Hey You."

    At age 27, Jewel was still writing lyrics with the uninformed compassion of a teen scribbling in homeroom ("the light lends itself to soft repose" -- ugh), but with This Way she discovered the merits of electric guitar, and her songwriting has blossomed from flower-child-folk through soporific pop into sturdy folk-rock. There's a big old beat in the background and a new sinew in the vocals, and a high percentage of the songs are solid winners -- "Standing Still," "Cleveland," the sassy "Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime," the gorgeous love song "Break Me." Jewel deepens her voice and lays off the crystalline falsetto in "Serve the Ego" and the melancholy "I Won't Walk Away."

    Jewel was ready for more change, though: With 0304 she reinvents herself with sleek studio effects, plastic dance-rock hooks, and pop-art irony. Helmed by cowriter and producer Lester Mendez (whose credits include Shakira and Enrique Iglesias), 0304 is essentially a wanna-be version of late-career Madonna albums such as American Life. It even has its own State of the Union song, "America," with lyrics such as "We shed blood in the name of liberty." Jewel seemed a bit stiff and silly waxing lyrical about hot pants and bumpin' boots, but she was surrounded by pop of such undeniable catchiness that her fakeness somehow fit: She found herself an artificial flavor that tasted good. (ARION BERGER/BARRY WALTERS)

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