I've been trying to write this entry all week, but I could never seem to get it right. I realize now that I just wasn't angry enough. Only after seeing a commercial last night for a women's razor underscored by the accordions of Jewel's "Intuition" am I finally able to give form to my ire.
I've suffered the music of Jewel since high school. Not necessarily by choice. I tend to listen to radio stations that tend to play Jewel. And, frankly, I've never found her music to be offensive enough to change the station. Also, one of my good friends in high school was a Jewel fan from way back, even before "Who Will Save Your Soul?", so I had to pretend to like her, at least for her sake. But I can keep my silence no longer. There are just too many bad things about "Intuition." Someone must take a stand, and I nominate me.
First, some background. Jewel broke into mainstream radio amid just as the post-grunge chaos of the mid-90s music scene was settling down, and people were ready to start feeling good about themselves again. As peppy, mindless ska and "modern swing" tunes started pouring out of speakers across the country, a soft-voiced blonde temptress challenged people to take charge of their personal destinies in a world full of things trying to capitalize on their faith. The song was thoughtful, and the singer was charming in her own meek way. She had a nice rack, a pretty (if slightly pumpkin-like) face, and yet her gnarled snaggle-tooth gave her a more attainable everyday-person look. She didn't fit the mold of the female artists of the time. She was attractive, didn't seem particularly angry about anything, and had better things to talk about than the last failed relationship. In short, the Tracy Bonhams and Patti Rothbergs are shaking in their aggressive woman boots.
Emboldened by her success, Jewel followed up with "You Were Meant for Me." At the time I had suspicions that we had been fooled. While "Who Will Save Your Soul" actually had a thing or two to say about a thing or two, "You Were Meant for Me" appeared to deal entirely with, as I said, the last failed relationship. That, coupled with the fact that the first verse is about breakfast (reminiscent of Squeeze's "Tempted," which introduces itself with several lines about toiletries), was enough to lower Jewel irreparably in my estimation.
Then came "Foolish Games," our first introduction to the the god-awful "poetic" stylings that Jewel would eventually insist on turning into a book. Subscribing to the "the lyrics may not rhyme, but at least they don't follow a rhythm, either" school of songwriting, Jewel mumbled and fake-cried her way to chart-topping success once again. Now there was no stopping her.
Over the next few years Jewel's singles followed a familiar pattern of mixing uninspired platitudes ("If I could tell the world just one thing it would be that we're all okay") with incomprensible high-school poetry ("My hands are small I know but they're not yours they are my own"). And I listened, teeth clenched, but I listened. Even when she had the audacity to use "Do you want me like I want you" in a song released during the twenty-first fucking century, I brooded inwardly without making too much of a fuss.
But "Intuition," oh, that's just too much. Jewel appears to be trying to reconnect with her original success, telling people to be themselves in a world that wants them to be someone else. In short, don't buy into fads. That's great. It's too bad Jewel has completely abandoned the style of music that shaped her career by jumping on the bandwagon of ghettoing-up her music, you know, to appeal to the young people. Congratulations, Jewel, on finding a drum machine and a soundboard that makes you sound like you're on the phone. Were they in the dumpster outside the studio where No Doubt recorded Rocksteady? Or maybe you borrowed them from Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Madonna, Tori Amos, or any of the other dozens of female artists who've made the exact same move over the past five years. Tori Amos at least had the sense to bring back the piano after her intolerable dance album. Here's hoping Jewel sees the same light.
But perhaps I'm being too hard on Jewel. Maybe her belated buy-in to the fake hip-hop genre is really a brilliant post-modern statement on the very thing the song is talking about. Even granting (quite generously) that conclusion, there's still the matter of the super-relativistic speed with which she hocked that song off to the women's razor industry. It was positively unphysical. She must have recorded the song, and then taken the song back in time and given it to the razor people before it was even recorded. That's the only way. The only way.
On top of that, the lyrical content is terrible even by Jewel's standards. "Sell your skin, just cash in"? Is that your way of telling us that radio stations don't play Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" enough? "If you want me let me know I promise I won't say no"? What the hell does that have to do with anything else you say in the song? Is it in your contract that you have to get laid in every song you write now? And let us not forget "It's not hard to understand just follow this simple plan." I swear to God I can almost hear Homer saying "Something something then you'll see, you'll avoid catastrophe."
This is truly a new low, not only for Jewel, but for music in general. My intuition is telling me to sell my goddamned radio.