“Having my picture in a magazine makes me special. How special are you?” Jewel comes on strong on her third album proper, neither humbled nor embarrassed by her unfathomable success, and has produced what is easily her most accomplished and realized effort so far. It’s unlikely that she’ll shift half as many units as she’s been getting used to, however, but that has more to do with the fickle attention of the record-buying public at large, than with the quality of this album. Jewel has grown into a confident songwriter and a solid performer, her voice expressive and passionate, and there are several impressive moments on here.
Opening with “Standing Still,” Jewel wastes no time in getting her point across. A lovely, crafted blend of Springsteen, a Top 40 pop rush, and what may be a Cyndi Lauper influence, this is one of the album’s most immediately appealing tracks and one of its best ones as well. However, it’s the subtler stuff that dominates the album, and Jewel handles this material with far more mature and careful hands than before, resulting in several lovely moments. “Do You Want to Play?” is both moving and clever, while the sardonic “Jesus Loves You” is particularly captivating along with the beautiful “Break Me,” the latter one also an effective showcase of her impressive vocal range and tone.
With only the title track a real miss, this is a surprisingly remarkable album. The only truly annoying aspect is the glossy production, something the drums and rhythm programming suffer the most from. So that, when Jewel closes off with two live bonus tracks featuring only herself and her guitar, one realizes that this is the sound of an artist finally coming of age. Stunning and captivating.
Atlantic Records: http://www.atlantic-records.com