Saturday, May 18, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1737: Jewel

Tragedy struck last night, as my beloved Boston Bruins were once again eliminated from the playoffs by the despised Florida Panthers.

I’ve always said that losing in round two of the playoffs is the best time lose. You’ve got one series under your belt, and you aren’t far enough along for it to be too painful. Losing still sucks, though.

Disc 1737 is…Pieces of You

Artist: Jewel

Year of Release: 1995

What’s up with the Cover?  A piece of Jewel, as shown through a tear in the fabric of reality. Is the sky bluer in Jewel’s world? It certainly appears so.

There’s also a quota at the bottom reading “what we call human nature in actuality is human habit” putting our friend Jewel squarely in the “nurture” side of the nature/nurture debate.

How I Came To Know It: If you had a pulse in 1994 you knew at least three songs off this multi-platinum selling record. Not bad for a gal from Homer, Alaska.

I missed the window when everyone initially bought it though, and in recent years it became more of a guilty pleasure. Did I wish to be seen purchasing a Jewel album at my local indie record store? Reader, I did not.

Fortunately, this is one of those records that is so ubiquitous then and so ‘meh’ now it is practically disposable. And thus it was only a matter of time until Sheila found it gathering dust on some thrift store shop. And find it she did!

How It Stacks Up: This is my only Jewel album. I won’t rule getting another one if the Thrift Store Gods are kind. Even “0304” is on the thrift-store wish list, although for that one I suspect being under undue influence from the sexy video for “Intuition”.  

Rating: 3 stars

Jewel feels the feels, and on “Pieces of You” she invites you to feel them with her with intimate folk pop ballads. When she bares her own soul it tends to work, but when she tries baring the soul of other people it tends to be clunky.

The record has three huge hits, two of which are great and one that I used to like but has aged poorly. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

The inward looking “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant For Me” are both exceptional songs that stand the test of time. Both are break up songs, with “Foolish Games” describing a toxic relationship and the damage it does, and “You Were Meant For Me” that kind of “wear your sweatpants all day and eat ice cream” moment in life where love is gone and the house feels empty and cold.

Both are Jewel doing what she does best, digging in deep and evoking what she finds there. When she sings “these foolish games are tearing me apart” it feels like she’s about to expire right there from the grand tragedy of it all. “Foolish Games” has a great structure that builds to its poignant heights. “You Were Meant For Me” has an amble to its melody that suits its aimless “life is pointless” vibe.

Other standouts include the romantic “Near You Always” and the fifties pop inspired “I’m Sensitive” which is as simple and beautiful as a song can be. The theme of both are variations of “be nice to me, I’m easily damaged emotionally.” Admitting all that vulnerability comes off here as both honest and brave.

On the other side of the ledger, we have “Who Will Save Your Soul?” this was a big hit and I liked it in 1995, but now I hear all the aimless jazz elements. Also, what was once Jewel’s delightful warble now sounds affected and muppet-like.

Jewel describing other people’s problems…poorly. The title track is a stand against prejudice but it feels more like a grade nine poetry assignment on the topic than a thoughtful exploration. “Daddy” falls into the same category. Here we have a judgmental (likely abusive) father character, and the emotional damage done to his daughter. Again, an important topic, but again falling flat in its mission to make me feel the feels.

Worst of all is the seven-minute atrocity that is “Adrian”. In the song something bad happens to our title character, and he ends up suffering some accident in a canoe and ends up in a coma. I am certain I was supposed to care, but the song plods painfully along with lyrics that are saccharine and an awkward melody that is deeply and obviously manipulative. For a song where the only action is the canoe mentioned in the first verse, Jewel sure takes a long time telling a story where nothing happens. For more compelling canoe-related storytelling I recommend “Mr. Canoe HeadMr. Canoe Head” 

A few of these songs have live audiences cheering after, and I remember the buzz about Jewel at the time that she never sang a song the same twice, letting her feelings take her where it seemed best. I think the live elements were supposed to remind the listener of this, but it didn’t affect my listening a whit. The good songs were still good, and Adrian was still Adrian.

Overall, I liked this record less than I did in 1995, but despite some of its shortcomings the high points are still notable enough to earn 3 stars.

Best tracks: Foolish Games, Near You Always, I’m Sensitive, You Were Meant For Me

No comments: