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Jewel - 0304


Review: Jack Foley

SINGER/songwriter Jewel first burst into the musical spotlight with her Diamond Award winning debut album, Pieces of You, in 1995, and has been tirelessly trying to re-invent herself ever since.

Indeed, a quick look at her biog and it appears that there is nothing that this musician can't do, if she puts her mind to it.

And her remit extends way beyond music, into producing, writing (poetry, that is) and acting (she has appeared in Ang Lee's Ride With The Devil, and is set to produce Wave).

Her latest long-player, therefore, finds her experimenting in the worlds of hip-hop, folk and pop, with varying degrees of success.

Produced by Cuban-American, Lester Mendez, who has worked with Shakira, Santana and Enrique Iglesias, 0304 finds Jewel sounding like Madonna and, at times, Kylie, without ever really convincing that she could cut it as one of those divas.

The album starts promisingly enough, with Stand, a track which also contains the obligatory social commentary that seems to accompany every major new release coming out of America nowadays.

Containing an electro-inspired backbeat, the lyrics include such choice lines as 'walk in a corner shop, see a shoplifting cop, see an old lady with a gun... nothing's what it seems', before declaring that 'together we can make a stand'.

In truth, some of the lyrics seem a little too biting for the melodies which accompany them, but this is but a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Where 0304 tends to slip up is during its all too frequent routine moments; tracks which succeed in capturing the bland sound of mainstream pop at the moment, which could easily have been penned by any all-girl band.

Tracks such as Fragile Heart and Leave The Lights On are particularly indicative of this, and fail to do justice to the real talent that is Jewel.

Elsewhere, however, there are moments to savour, particularly if you like Kylie or Madonna.

Former single, Intuition, with its neat French accordian intro and hand-clapping back beat, is a suitably sassy number, while 2 Find U is an effortlessly catchy pop record that provides an ideal showcase for Jewel's vocals, while evoking memories of early Kylie.

U & Me = Love was, according to HMV, originally written for Holly Valance and sounds like it, while Becoming finds Jewel sounding most like Madonna, complete with some truly dripping vocals - the latter, in particular, marks the sound of the album at its best.

The social commentary also returns for the track, America, which declares 'we shed blood in the name of liberty', before turning a little patriotic.

Yet, in the final analysis, it's the album's failings that tend to become more apparent than its successes - maybe because we have come to expect more from Jewel, given her impressive CV, or perhaps because of the lack of a truly stand-out track.

It's a pleasant listen which seems a little too easy to truly be regarded as a worthwhile change of direction.

Still, true Jewel fans will no doubt consider it another gem, and it has already gone down a storm in America (where she continues to find the majority of her success).

 

Track listing:
1. Stand
2. Run 2 U
3. Intuition
4. Leave The Lights ON
5. 2 Find U
6. Fragile Heart
7. Doin’ Fine
8. 2 Become 1
9. Haunted
10. Sweet Temptation
11. Yes U Can
12. U & Me = Love
13. America
14. Becoming

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