Jewel shines “Again & Again & Again”
NEW YORK (Billboard) – The last time we all saw Jewel, she was prancing in red vinyl shorts and a white tank top.
Her “I’m a naughty firefighter” look in the video for “Intuition,” the hit from her last album, “0304,” was a bit of a departure for Jewel, to say the least, and one that seemed to confuse her fans, who had come to associate the singer-songwriter with a more earthy-granola type of beauty.
In a career that her label, Atlantic Records, says has seen her sell more than 25 million albums worldwide, “0304” was her first release not to go platinum in the United States.
It’s understandable, then, that fans, radio programmers, retailers and seemingly anyone else with an interest in Jewel’s career are pleased to hear the first single from her new album, “Goodbye Alice in Wonderland,” due May 2.
The song, “Again and Again,” leaves behind the synth-driven dance-pop of “Intuition” in favor of the sincere ruminations and guitar licks that first put her on the map.
BACK TO BASICS
“Again and Again” is already climbing the charts on adult top 40 radio, where it is approaching the top 15. And the video is back-to-basics Jewel: a plain white shirt and a pretty, catchy, soul-searching tune.
But to really succeed — to exceed expectations for this last album of her Atlantic contract — she’ll need more than a hit song. Every album Jewel has released since her debut, the seven-times platinum “Pieces of You,” has sold roughly half as many copies as the one before it.
“Intuition” was a top five radio single, but it was a tough sell for fans.
“Once you’re known as an authentic, earthy artist, the audience has a little bit of a lower threshold for reinvention,” says Daniel Anstandig, vice president of adult formats at radio consultancy McVay Media. “A sudden change in character is a reinvention of a person (who) fans thought they knew.”
To Jewel’s credit, the “Intuition” video — with made-up Jewel logos branding elaborately choreographed, everyday scenarios such as buying a hot dog or walking past some firemen — was meant to mock the branding of pop stars. But when the single and video were launched simultaneously with a Jewel-branded Schick women’s razor — the product line was called “Intuition” and a commercial featured the song — Jewel’s “joke” became a little less funny.
“That probably threw the whole thing off,” Jewel acknowledges. “But at the time, I didn’t own the whole song and it was just beyond my control.”
Not that she’s apologizing: “S— happens,” she says of the whole affair. And “0304” remains one of her favorite recordings.
“Anyone that really listened heard a smart record with good storytelling,” she says. “I didn’t fluff out or compromise; if I was going, ‘Ooh baby baby’ or ‘Come on, uh-huh, uh-huh,’ we might all worry about me. But I was getting into electronic music and dance remixes. I can’t believe people didn’t get it.”
The new album is a melodic goodbye — to her 20s, to 10 years in the music business and to her first record label contract.
The 13 tracks chronologically survey the artist’s journey from the plains of Alaska to the streets of Los Angeles and the complexities that have marked each step. Jewel says “Goodbye” is “the most autobiographical work I have made” since her first record.
“This record is a chronicle of my life, from being raised in isolation on a ranch to seeing Hollywood for the first time to the elixir of being signed to a label and going on a wild journey,” she says. “Now, I’m looking at it full circle, living on a ranch in Stephenville, Texas.” The singer says she spent a lot of time sequencing the album, “like a novel with a beginning, middle and end, so that it tells a story.”
As always, her lyrics are awash with enough gray metaphors to question whether those life experiences have been largely pro or con. “People tell me it’s either the happiest record I’ve ever made or the saddest,” she says.
“I titled it ‘Goodbye Alice in Wonderland’ because a lot of the songs deal with letting go of fantasies or fairy tales and trying to see reality without becoming disillusioned or bitter,” she explains. “The message is that I’ve been through some of my hardest times, but also some of the most rewarding.”
As usual, Jewel didn’t write on-demand for the album. She tapped into her catalog of some 500 songs to shape the direction of “Goodbye.”
“I’m constantly writing, so I never have to actually sit down and write a record,” she says. “If there is a tempo or a theme missing, I’ll write to fill that spot, but generally, with all of my records, I go back to things I have written in the past.”
AT THE CROSSROADS
Jewel seems to be taking the success of her new single and her career crossroads in stride. When she recorded “Pieces of You,” she was just turning 20. Now, at 31, “there is an introspection taking place,” she says. “These albums are like bookends.”
So far, she has not signed another long-term record contract. And once her support of “Alice” is complete, she intends to apply gentle pressure to the brakes, and decide if the economics and necessary commitments make sense for her to sign another long-term contract.
“The game gets tiring for me,” she says. “I am very committed to this record, but after that, I don’t want to stay as visible. I’d like to put out some smaller records, maybe a jazz standard or a country record. I’ve been competitive my whole life, and now I’d like to work out of my house more. I might even start looking into having a family in a couple years.”
Whever we see her, it is a great time!!
Jewel shines “Again & Again & Again”