As some of you might know, I purchased the new album from Jewel Kilcher, 0304, when it came out three weeks ago. A member of my adoring public (which means if it ain’t you, it’s the other one) asked for a full review of it since I, after listening to it once or twice, gushed enough to convince him to buy it. He hasn’t spoken to me since. Let this be my apology.
Jewel’s got a new sound, as you have read elsewhere. Her other albums have been folksy, with her voice and subtle acoustic guitar giving her a subtle, breathy sexiness in her love songs (think “Morning Song”). When I first heard 0304, with its dance beats and a more confident sexuality in songs like “Leave the Light On”, “Sweet Temptation”, or “2 Become 1”, I thought, wow! It was something akin to seeing the little sister of your bestest buddy blossom from a cute kid into a woman.
Unfortunately, after a couple more listens, the song “Yes You Can” sticks in my head. The song’s a celebration of dance club/rave culture casual sex. Suddenly, it’s akin to seeing the little sister of your bestest buddy blossom from a cute kid into a woman who happens to be a prostitute. Ick.
Maybe prostitution’s a good analogy. After all, she’s changed her music and her image to target a demographic instead of trying to please her core audience with some expansion (Dr. Thomas to emergency, please; Dr. Thomas to emergency).
She’s sacrificed some of her other, more thoughtful songs about things aside from chasing members of the opposite sex. No “Hands”, no “Down So Long”, no “Who Will Save Your Soul” (her best song, period). The album changes pace (allowing listeners to recuperate for a minute and slam some ginseng and saw palmetto) with “America”, but I saw the same Songwrite-By-Numbers kit in K-Mart.
So I’m disappointed with the album, but it’s not all bad. Jewel can carry a playful dance number when she uses her manic voice. You know the one I am talking about. The less breathy (although still breathy), with clear, aggressive notes (“Who Will Save Your Soul” and “Hands”). When she tries to mesh her plaintive voice (“Adrian”) into the bubbles of notes and backbeat, it fails. Fortunately, she stays away from the bleats. After all, the albums all about coming together for a night, not breaking up badly.
I give it a two of four whatevers, and I am disappointed because I expect a little more from Jewel. I listened to Pieces of You over and over again, for crying out loud. I hope it’s only a departure, as do many of the reviewers on Amazon. I guess it will depend upon whether her new audience is bigger than her old audience.
Items mentioned in this review