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Clown Jewel

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Eight things, true and otherwise, that Jewel has said:

1. "Sure, sex sells."

I've never seen Jewel in person, mind you, but I have seen her on TV, in the backstage area of an awards show. She was near Fiona Apple and not too far from Marilyn Manson. Watching her, I found it easy to see why she became a star. First of all, there are the breasts. And I do mean first of all. They precede her. They even precede her reputation. To focus on Jewel's breasts may be objectionable objectification, but hey, I'm not the one who has spent thousands of dollars ensuring that they're the most prominent feature of every photo and every video (cf. Sheryl Crow's mouth). The breasts, though, are only the beginning. There's the $8500 Versace gown she wore to the 1997 Grammys, the one that was nearly transparent and showcased the aforementioned breasts. There's the publicized alliance with makeup expert Kevyn Aucoin, who was hired to bring out the green in Jewel's eyes. Then there are the perfect bee-stung lips, the creamy skin, the perfect hair. You know something? Jewel's right. Sex does sell.

2. "As a kid I was stuck on the idea that my worth was based on my ability to seduce the opposite sex. At 15, I was vamping it up. We are conditioned to believe that the pinnacle in life is romantic love. It was reading that changed me. I learned my humanity from Anaïs Nin, Bukowski, Pablo Neruda, and I became more focused on my mind."

And what a mind it is. As she struggles with heavy issues like love, identity, peace, and so forth, Jewel might want, every once in a while, to write a lyric that doesn't sound like it was Silly-Puttied from the pages of a college literary magazine. Her two albums, Pieces of You and Spirit, are the Fat Man and Little Boy of sensitive-girl idiocy, embarrassments that aren't quite mitigated by her striking beauty (see above) or her beautiful voice (see below).

Fat Man plus Little Boy, of course, equals "Fat Boy," the most embarrassing song from Jewel's largely embarrassing sophomore album, Spirit, which she will surely showcase at her show August28 in the Coral Sky Amphitheatre. The tale of a corpulent outcast who, try as he might, just cannot love himself, "Fat Boy" is so saccharine it could give a rat cancer at 50 paces. "Wouldn't it be nice /If I could melt myself like ice/Or outrun my skin/Just be pure wind."

Jewel doesn't say that. Her "protagonist," the titular Fat Boy, does. Compare Jewel's "Fat Boy" with Randy Newman's "Davy the Fat Boy." Which song does a better job of exposing the rationalizations that feed the abuse of obese children in our society? And which song is the work of a bubbleheaded do-gooder without the sense to edit herself?

Someone right now is probably writing a letter that begins, "Dear Woman-Hater" or "Dear Chauvinist Pig." Send it to someone else. Send it to Jesse Helms or Camille Paglia. They'll know what to do with it. I'll just look at it and feel like it's a mistake, and then go listen to all my Patti Smith and Chaka Khan and P.J. Harvey and Dusty Springfield and Ani DiFranco and Gladys Knight and Juliana Hatfield and Aimee Mann and Diamanda Galas records.OK?

3. "How often I've cried out in silent tongue to be saved from myself."

Actually, this is something Jewel didn't say. It's something she wrote, the opening line of "Silent Tongue," one of the shorter and consequently less objectionable poems in A Night Without Armor, the heinous collection of verse she published in 1998. The poems are heinous mainly because they offer up Jewel's words without Jewel's voice -- which is, truth be told, often a wonderful voice, full-throated and compelling, like Joan Baez with sex appeal or Judy Collins without the shrinking-violet fragility.

4. "I thought it was funny how seriously people took [Pieces of You]. You should never take the work of an 18-year-old that seriously."

OK, fine. Granted. But how about a 19-year-old? How about a 20-year-old? 22? 24? When can we start taking Jewel's work seriously, so she'll have to start taking the criticism seriously?

5. "I'm so sick of talking about myself."

Right there with you on this one, Jewel. So you slept in a van for a few nights back when you were a poor Alaskan child, and then you shot to stardom on the strength of your first record. Big deal. I once slept in a train station, and three years later when I called up to collect my major-label recording deal, the receptionist wouldn't put me through to the head of A&R. The nerve.

6. "A lot of people come to me, and they read the press on me, they don't listen to the record, and that's the most annoying thing on the planet. Because you guys are taking copies of copies. You don't have an original thought in your head."

Here are some original thoughts, so that any disgruntled fan who has the opportunity to write or speak to Jewel can avoid the dart of her derision:

Dear Jewel, I have heard a rumor that you are a double agent leading a putsch against our great republic, that you are attempting to shake the foundation of our society with empty, post-hippie platitudes. Is this true?

Dear Jewel, The other day I had a dream that we were at the movies together, and you got up to get some popcorn -- in the dream, you loved popcorn -- and leaned down and whispered in my ear, "Who will save my seat?" In real life do you love popcorn?

Dear Jewel, Last year you were sued by Inga Vainshtein, your first manager. Vainshtein sued for breach of contract and loss of earnings, claiming that she was forced out of the management role by your meddling mother Nedra. She also said that much of your career advice these days comes from an ancient spirit named Z. Can you tell me if Inga Vainshtein's claim is valid, and if it was Z who encouraged you to publish your poetry?

Dear Jewel, Will you marry me?

7. "When I look back, I really don't think I'm going to care that I sold 10million records or what people said about my poetry book. I don't feel successful, I feel accomplished. The part that doesn't sit well with me is that it seems a little arbitrary. I went from being homeless to being rich in four years. And granted, I am blond and I am talented and thus the world feels it should pay me a lot. I am just damn thankful."

Dear Jewel, Please remind me: What's the most annoying thing on the planet?

8. "It's so easy to feel alone and to feel you are the only one going through what you're going through. You feel very isolated when you're young. If I can help, that's great."

Say you're a guy who blew it. You raised your hand to your wife once too many times, and now she has a boyfriend who your daughter calls "Daddy." Say you were in the service, and now you're re-upping just to set your life in order. Say you're waiting for the bus in your army greens, and you hear a bird. No. It's not a bird. It's something else with wings. It's an angel, dropped down from the empyrean green, and she's singing in her angelic voice. Like all angels, she has a sweet face. Like some lucky angels, she has healthy breasts. It's Jewel, and she was meant for you. Two minutes earlier you were dead set against the world, ready to rage. Now your eyes are newly polished. Your cynicism suddenly embarrasses you, just as your proclivity for terry cloth briefs once embarrassed you. But that's another story, and this one isn't over yet. You stand, newly converted, and walk until you find a man who scorns your love for Jewel. You beat him badly, leave him for dead. Then you travel America, going door to door and introducing your chuckaboots to all of Jewel's detractors. Is she your angel or are you hers? This strikes you as the perfect opening line for a song, so you buy a Gibson acoustic and begin to strum a pleasing melody line. After a few days, you start to shine. Like a star. Like a gold ring. Like a jewel.


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