Jewel's Just Having Fun These Days

Excerpted for the magazine for

It took three albums for Jewel to convince us that she's an earnest woman with a message and a guitar.

Now, forget about it.

With the June 3 release of "0304," this girl just wants to have fun. The 14-song Atlantic Records set finds the heady singer/songwriter relinquishing her folk/pop roots to explore electronic beats and uptempo melodies, taking her out of coffeehouses and onto the dancefloor.

"I've always been considered a very serious artist," says Jewel, 28. "This is my pop culture record. The world is complicated and hard, and people want to be able to lose themselves in the rhythm. People want to feel young and sexy and smart; and like things are OK -- including me. That is the only image I had writing these songs. This is a happy record."

Jewel called on Lester Mendez -- who has worked with Shakira, Santana, and Enrique Iglesias -- to collaborate through the process of songwriting, arranging, and producing the album.

"I'd always thought electronic music was cold and pat and not very creative," she says. Yet she decided to try the remix treatment on "Serve the Ego," a single from her previous album, "This Way."

The end result not only resonated personally but lifted Jewel to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

"I found a way to use beats that suits me," she says. "Now, I see that it's like being a painter who says they will never use red or yellow. Why limit yourself that way?" She adds, "I intend to work with Lester for the rest of my life. I can't tell you how powerful a musician he is."

Jewel also went about the songwriting process in a way that was novel for her: "Usually, when it's time to make an album, I compile songs from my catalog; I've always had a lot in stock. This is the first time I've written a record from beginning to end, really exploring where current culture is heading."

As a result, Jewel and Mendez recorded and mixed the record in a rapid-fire eight weeks.

First single "Intuition" gives listeners a clear indication of Jewel's new stylistic gleam. The song opens with an accordion and rallies like a gypsy carnival, with an army of marching beats and creamy layers of harmony coming from behind.

A commercial "Intuition" single was released May 6 and a promotional maxi-single including dance mixes of the song and video footage was serviced shortly after. The title is currently No. 30 on Billboard's Hot 100.

The videoclip for the single, directed by Marc Klasfeld, prompted an even bigger surprise: Jewel playing up her sexuality before the camera.

"It's true, I've always held back; I always believed you can't be smart and sexy at the same time," she admits. "But at this point, people know who I am and what I stand for, so I feel like I can play with that image and offer some irony."

That's not to say that "0304" is shallow. As usual, Jewel layers her songwriting, allowing listeners to dig as deep as they choose to.

"If you look at it just for the beat value, then this is a fun record. But if you want to go deeper, there are as many levels of irony as you want," Jewel says. "If you want to hear what I've learned about the world and what I've been through in my life, it's there."

Excerpted from the June 7, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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