Review Summary: what we call human nature in actuality is human habit
By now, we all know the story of how Jewel came to be what she is today – how she overcame a poverty stricken life as a young adult by writing and performing music out of a van, gaining local recognition, and eventually going on to tour at venues worldwide. Her long and illustrious career has spurred numerous honors, awards, and tributes as she has transformed into one of pop’s most recognizable figures from the past two decades. But for as renowned as her works are today, perhaps no other is as universally acclaimed and
personally relevant as her debut album. Pieces of You
offers a glimpse into the soul of Jewel during the most tumultuous time in her life – when luxuries couldn’t be found and simple pleasures were the cornerstone of her existence. As a first-hand account of her life before being discovered, the album offers some of the most breathtaking music that one girl and her acoustic guitar can make – as well as poetic lyrics that speak for an entire generation.
Pieces of You
is an appropriately titled album because it touches on so many of the fundamental emotions that we experience throughout life. The title track is saturated with jealousy and passionate hatred, as Jewel sings abhorrently about the shallowness of women in our society, along with a lack of tolerance for homosexuals and Jews. Lines such as “ugly girl, do you hate her 'cause she's pieces of you"
” and “you say he's a faggot, are you afraid you're just the same"
” compel introspection, while the love-soaked lyrics of songs like ‘Near You Always’ and ‘Morning Song’ evoke a sense of ecstasy that could only be experienced more directly by living out the line “Let the phone ring, let's go back to sleep…Tell your boss you're sick, hurry, get back in I'm getting cold…Get over here and warm my hands up, boy, it's you they love to hold
.” With every line uttered, Jewel paints a picture that will overwhelm your senses and immerse you in her music; in her experiences. The melodies are sung with such irresistible charm and candidness that you might even overlook the raw poetic beauty stemming from Jewel’s voice, although such oversights are usually short-lived in the wake of her immense lyrical capabilities. From start to finish, Pieces of You
will affect you more than you probably want it to, clawing at the bare bones of what you think you are, how you view others, and how you perceive emotions such as love.
While it is unusual for an album to come along that is so uniformly inspiring, it remains even rarer for that same album to possess such mesmerizing instrumental backing. This is an album driven by and comprised solely of Jewel and her acoustic guitar, which makes the record’s entrancing sound even more remarkable. The quick, varied picking techniques present on ‘Who Will Save Your Soul’ provides contrast to her deep, throaty vocals in what is easily one of Jewel’s greatest hits, while the slow strumming of a song like ‘I’m Sensitive’ allows more of an atmospheric feel that illuminates large portions of the record. The vocals and acoustic guitar clearly rely on each other throughout Pieces of You
, as the facets trade responsibilities to keep each song sounding fresh. Sometimes the guitar is the centerpiece, and other times Jewel’s angelic voice highlights the song. Either way, she manages to get all of her messages across – whether they are delivered through a simple hum, a heartfelt chord, or a forthright lyrical statement.
For Pieces of You
’s entire duration, she is detailing every aspect of her life…not so much by lengthily recounting her past; but by making brief, emotionally moving gestures that command your full attention while spurring a desire to look inwards and find pieces of her
. It is an album that we should all hear at some point in our lives, because, somewhere deep down, we are already living it. Jewel may not have upheld the magnificence of this record for all sixteen years of her career, but she just might have said everything she needed to right here. Pieces of You
is a timeless classic, and it remains a long-standing example of the heights that pop music can aspire to reach.