Jewel - 0304

As a long time Jewel fan, her change of direction in 0304 was something I was intrigued to hear. Aware that artists don't have to stay the same and that change can be for the better, I tried not to judge this album before I heard it.

The fact remains, however, that I miss the old Jewel, the one who Sean Penn (i think it was)described as potentially the female Dylan. I even miss the Jewel of This Way which was poppy and catchy without the need for all the production.

It's all gone wrong for me by 5 seconds into the first track when the
hip-hop beat kicks in and Jewel reaches for her rhyming dictionary and big book of platitudes. "So much violence ends in silence", apparently. You think? Hardly hard-hitting social commentary.

Run 2 U's beats feel like Ray Of Light / Born Slippy, Intuition is
over-produced faux-Shakira nonsense and the whole thing just comes across as a triumph of style over substance. The bleeps in "2 Find U" are not just unnecessary, they're downright irritating, and what is clearly a good song becomes a mess. It's the same story throughout half of the album - potentially decent songs drowned by irritating, unnecessary, over-busy production and a clear refusal to let the songs stand on their own merits.

The other half of the album is more rock-based. Yes U Can reminds me of Roxette, Doin' Fine sounds like S Club, Sweet Temptation and America sound very eighties. In the latter, the line "we are trucking in America, we are in America" feels like bowing to the Walmart censorship brigade to ensure sales... and then the track promptly gets hit by the production again and Jewel's voice is slowed down, another of the irritating touches which pepper the album. The point is no longer being made in the lyrics, it's in the production. Hopefully the live renditions will cut through most of this and allow the songs to shine.

I'm sure some of you will argue that this was the intention all along, that it's an ironic look at the music industry and the world in the year 2003, which gives us two options, neither particularly palatable. Either Jewel chose to waste an album on irony, or Jewel actually thinks this record is any good. The note to the fans in the inlay reads like a tacit apology.

I think it'll be huge. I think she'll pick up a load of new fans, in the US at least, but I think it's dreadful, it's lyrically trite, and the production sounds forced in an attempt to hook the commerical mainstream.

I have to single out Haunted, however - it's layered, it's multi-textured, it's interesting, it's oppressive, and most of all, it's not got the same production... not one of the Mendez co-writes. It's also the only sign of intelligent life in what is otherwise one of the worst records of the year so far.

We lucky Europeans get a bonus remix, incidentally. It too, is terrible.



out of 10

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