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Photograph by Peter Robathan

Attention Deficit: Jewel gets in touch with her inner Usher on '0304.'

2 Hot 2 Handle

Jewel--yes, Jewel--goes pop and storms the dance floor on '0304'

By Sarah Quelland

IF JEWEL wanted attention, she got it. If she wanted controversy, she got that too--all she had to do was show a little skin. The Alaskan songbird sports a racy new look and attitude in her video for "Intuition," the first single from her new album, 0304 (Atlantic Records).

While some fear that Jewel is abandoning her earthy folk roots for over-the-top pop stardom, there's also the very real possibility that she's simply proving that she's got enough sex appeal to give both Britney and Madonna a little competition--and having some fun in the process.

Despite the success of the remix of Jewel's previous hit "Serve the Ego" (which went to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music Club chart), the similarly dance music-driven 0304 --which Jewel co-produced with Lester Mendez (Shakira, Enrique Iglesias)--has been met with suspicion and confusion. But while the style is different, the voice and the message remain much the same.

The upbeat nature of this record represents Jewel's direct response to the troubled state of the economy and world affairs, and she says the title refers to the years 2003/2004. Despite the record's sugar-spun dance rhythms, the lyrics aren't overly frivolous, and Jewel hasn't lost her social consciousness.

Opening track "Stand" references Marvin Gaye, Woody Guthrie and Martin Luther King Jr. as she mourns pain and injustice in the world. She seasons "America" with symbols of pop culture, including the Osbournes, Roman Polanski and McDonald's, and laments, "Everywhere I go, seems like Bush is on TV / We shed blood in the name of liberty," while still waxing patriotic: "Take the bad with the good / I wanna change it, but I wouldn't leave it if I could."

Love and relationships also play a huge part, and Jewel delivers plenty of lovey-dovey sentiment and candied pop hits. She croons a love song to herself on "Becoming." She flaunts girlish behavior on "Run 2 U" and stays sweetly naive on "Fragile Heart" and innocent on "Sweet Temptation"--all characteristically Jewel.

"2 Become 1" finds her gazing at a sleeping lover and cooing pillow talk she can't say outside that sanctuary of the night. Meanwhile, "2 Find U" shows the flip side as she fights to save a relationship that's in jeopardy.

She tempers the sugar with bite. The jazzy nuance of "Leave the Lights On," with its snappy bridge and sexy PG-13 lyrics ("I will mesmerize with milky thighs and languid eyes / I'll prophesize your moans and sighs") sets it apart from the club tracks.

"Yes U Can" is similarly distinctive, kicking off with a twang guitar before backsliding into '80s synth-pop territory where "The boys all freak 'cause the boots are bumpin' / Where the girls are naughty and always saying, 'Yes u can, yes u can, yes u can.'"

"Haunted" is the most jarring track on the album and very unlike Jewel. She speaks from a stalker's perspective while the seductive music subverts the threat inside the lyrics. The song climaxes with "You're my one true girl / And I won't be stoppin' / Just 'cause your knees are knockin' / When I decide 2 drop in / So don't make a sound/ 'Cause there's no one around / 2 come between us now." "Haunted" ends in sexual moans.

Jewel, now 29, is clearly reinventing herself. She describes herself as "a real girl in an unreal world" on "U & Me = Love" and "Just a simple girl in a high-tech digital world" on the hit single "Intuition." In the video to "Intuition" she blatantly spoofs fads, celebrity and brand-name consumerism, co-opting loosely disguised products like Sprite, Levi, Nike, Corona and MTV. The song itself is being used in commercials for the new Schick Intuition razor.

Jewel has been coy about her intentions, but wherever she's going--whether just vacationing in the dance world for the summer or contemplating a permanent relocation--she's having a blast.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the July 3-9, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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