Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Remembering Lilith: Jewel

SE: Should we start by acknowledging our reluctance, perhaps? Or maybe by confessing our embarrassments?

AHP: Yes, I think we can begin by situating her, more than perhaps any other, as a Lilith Fair performer who was so much of that time and moment that she’s completely, wholly out of fashion now. She’s not your mom’s well-loved cardigan that’s now just vintage and refined; she’s the embarrassing Gap overalls.

SE: Oh my god. She has all these albums I’ve never even heard of and don’t especially want to listen to, even for the purposes of our art. But she is nonetheless a crucial figure, because she was positioned as the face of Lilith Fair in the festival’s first season:

Analyzing why she would have been chosen for a Lilith Fair cover story is like shooting misogynist fish in a gender studies barrel, though, right?

AHP: But Simone, it’s not even that she was just the cover lady — she was, apparently, the HEADLINER, and rest were just her gang? That’d be like renaming The Babysitters Club as “Stacey and Her Less Good Looking Losers.” (SE: Well . . .?) Also please analyze: “macho” vs. “empathy,” but “empathy” that is still “hot.”

SE: MISOGYNIST FISH. GENDER STUDIES BARREL. I suspect the subtext here is the Warped Tour, which started in 1995; in ’97 Lilith Fair was the highest-grossing traveling festival. (I am deeeep in Lilith Fair research, y’all.) So this formulation, besides its obviously problematic whatever whatever about gender and feeeeeeelings, is always already about money and profit. But I also don’t even know that I would define the music of the Ladies Of Lilith (LOLOLOLOL) as particularly empathetic — in what way is it about understanding the pain of other people more than it is about an artist dissecting her pain and the audience identifying with it? 

Is empathy what I’m supposed to get from “You Were Meant For Me”? “So I picked up a paper, it was more bad news/ More hearts being broken or people being used”? “Same old story, not much to say/ Hearts are broken every day”? Thanks for the insight, lady. Is that the hot empathy Time identified?

Speaking of both my mom and Gap overalls (mine were from Old Navy), I bought myself Pieces of You for my 14th birthday. (I also bought Jagged Little Pill, though, so maybe karmically that makes a difference.) I feel like I should explain here, finally, that my mom had these Draconian standards as to what kinds of media I could consume. Until I bought myself these CDs, the only music in my house was smooth jazz and classical radio, a playlist of classic rock that met my mother’s lofty aesthetic standards, and the entire Steely Dan catalog, minus Pretzel Logic. When I asked for the Billy Joel Greatest Hits I and II set for my 18th birthday, she refused on the grounds that Billy Joel was “too subversive.” (If you don’t like her opinions re: Pretzel Logic, take it up with the dead lady.)

AHP: By contrast, my MOM bought both Pieces of You and Jagged Little Pill, which I promptly “borrowed,” which is to say “stole and never gave back and eventually allowed them to be stolen from the backseat of my car when I was a sophomore in college.” My subversive music purchasing was in the form of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, with its giant pot leaf on the cover just begging to force a horrible conversation about marijuana, revealing that my 8th grade self didn’t even know what that leaf represented, let alone that I should be hiding it under my bed. IDAHO GIRLS: either very sheltered or very not.

SE: If I were the kind of person to use the abbrev “smh” I would use it here. But yes, it’s true: I listened, wholeheartedly and unironically, to Jewel. The lead single was, of course, “Who Will Save Your Soul?”

Thoughts: A) I am digging/wondering about this mid-to-late ’90s obsession with voyeurism as expressed in music videos. B) I still kind of like this song, though in retrospect it was some real sleight of hand to make this the lead single, sort of like if you read that one reasonably good poem I wrote as a teenager and made some assumptions about my possessing any kind of talent at all, and then you got to my lengthy lyric meditation on an old woman eating lunch at the Chinese buffet or the one about how roses have thorns and how that’s just like life. Like, one could be convinced on the basis of this decent song that the rest of the album is pretty good. But is it? Is it pretty good, or is it all cliche poems about dewy rose petals at dawn?

AHP: I think I used to transcribe Jewel lyrics into my journal, turn the page, then write my prose poems “inspired” by Jewel’s lyrics, and the results were no better or worse than my work uninspired by Jewel’s lyrics. Which is all to say: you’re right.

But I think there’s something to the fact that Jewel’s poetry book, A Night Without Armor, has become a talisman of innocent, earnest youth. In college, my best friend and I continually cited it to each other as a means to distance our own just-okay poetry from the poetry we wrote/consumed during our teen years. Earlier this year, Lena Dunham Instagrammed a photo of her copy because of course she did. The poems in that book (and the lyrics to her songs) aren’t good, aren’t all that different or inspired — but they seemed somehow just good enough, just better enough than my own stuff, that I admired them fiercely.

I’m going to share my theory about “Foolish Games,” which is this: I think the video demonstrates that Jewel was really trying to get horsey girls on board with her. Because otherwise this video is visually illegible.

AHP: Is it weird that I can’t distinguish this from a fan video made by an 8th grader? All I see is blue filter, frosty make-up, and the up-do with chunky front sections that characterized 80% of prom up-dos from the period.

SE: Jewel’s never not thinking about the 8th grader. I asked Horsey Girl Nicole Cliffe about this, and she said, and I quote, “Jewel ALWAYS had the horsey girls.” The Misty of Chincoteague set aside, I also think that, more than most other Ladies of Lilith, Jewel’s songs are supposed to be an imaginative, projective exercise for the listener. Like, you copy Jewel’s poetry into your journal and then you think about what it would be like to find a boyfriend who seems like he could have stepped out of a Jewel song. In “Foolish Games” I think she thinks she’s describing someone really edgy and cool: “You took your coat off and stood in the rain/ You're always crazy like that.” Isn’t that craaaaazy? And he, what else, oh, he likes Baroque music, Mozart, “philosophy,” cigarettes, and coffee? What a goddamned catch.

AHP: But just ENUMERATING those things somehow seemed edgy — or maybe just edgy to a certain swath of teenage/early 20s girls who hadn’t yet put together that liking philosophy and cigarettes is not the same thing as being a person of integrity and curiosity? Like I’m just wondering what my MOM was thinking of all this earnest, wrongheaded projection.

SE: It’s just, ugh, if only I couldn’t see into the future and KNOW that some Jewel fan would get scorched by a dude with lank, greasy hair and a smelly army jacket who’s “really into philosophy.”

AHP: But it’s a very distinct erotic projection — and very much in line with the erotic fetishization of grunge. Pieces of You came out in 1995 — the same year that the Nirvana Unplugged album won a GRAMMY. It was also the year of Hootie and the Blowfish, which is another way of saying it was the year of blanketing, banal mediocrity. [Ed. – WHAT?! Oh my god.] I feel like Jewel’s voice rang out like a hot, emotional bell.

Which is why Pieces of Me (You) (Everyone We Know) You went PLATINUM FIFTEEN TIMES and became “one of the best selling debut albums of all time.”

SE: To me, one of the most interesting things about Jewel is this very public media construction of a working-class identity. When she first broke, her biography was constructed to aggressively position her as a rags-to-riches success story: grew up in rural Alaska without indoor plumbing, performed duets in bars with her dad, sold her poetry to make money while she was at the Interlochen Arts Academy (where, according to Dan Kimpel’s seminal How They Made It, "70 percent of Jewel's tuition was paid for by a vocal scholarship, with the remainder of the expenses raised at what turned out to be Jewel's first solo concert” in her hometown of Homer, AK, lived in her car while traveling around the country performing. In interviews, she said things like “When poverty bites you hard at a young age, you don't forget it” and "I grew up with dirt under my nails . . . you never get over that.”

This mythology of poverty strikes me as being specifically about claiming a working-class identity, one in which her success comes in spite of a lack of cultural capital. But. I mean, her poverty was real, but also I’m pretty sure that was the case because her parents were back-to-the-landers. I mean, her grandfather was a delegate to the Alaska State Constitutional Convention. Her family’d been there for a long time and had roots, at least, and probably some resources.

And there’s also the thing with her teeth. You know about the thing with her teeth?

AHP: All I remember is that she had bad teeth, she smiled with her mouth closed all the time, and at some point they were fixed. But this was before I really recognized that teeth were such an obvious marker of class in the United States — I didn’t understand that “crooked, broken, ravaged gum lines” was code for “no health or dental care” and “un-Fluoridated well water.”

I had grown up solidly upper middle-class, and had been so thoroughly immersed in it through the first 13 years of my life, that when I hit junior high and was suddenly surrounded by evidence of working class-ness, when a third of my class was getting free lunch, when kids were talking about “doing crank” (read: meth) I was just clueless. I wasn’t stupid — I knew things were different — I just hadn’t ever been taught to recognize class as difference. I was friends with those kids. We talked on the phone. Their parents gave me rides home from practice. But my position made the privilege of my white and painfully braced teeth invisible to me.

That’s a digression and by no means an excuse — more of a testimony to the ways the pervasive myth of classlessness gets propagated. And Jewel’s case seems to be a 1990s case of class fetishization — here was the poor kid made good, the American Dream in artistic action. And the elision of her family’s historical privilege/cultural capital was nothing new: the studios reframed the biographies of dozens of classic Hollywood stars in order to make their success signify as both the product of “hard work” and the logistics of the American meritocracy.

SE: Nice SoCH tie-in. I’ve always admired how you manage your Personal Brand. (AHP: Scandals of Classic Hollywood IS LIFE.) BUT ALSO, you know who had a hard luck story similar to hers and yet did not have multiple biographies written about her when she was 24 years old nor warrant mention in multiple young reader books about celebrities? Tracy Goddamned Chapman, that's who. Born to a single mom in Cleveland, on scholarship at a boarding school where they took up a collection to buy her her first guitar, started out busking. I think it is only a rhetorical question when I ask why it is Jewel who gets this treatment, not our beloved TC.

AHP: EASY PRIVILEGE ANSWER, SIMONE: white people love books about white people triumphing over the system. Black people, especially black people who still sing about racism and domestic violence and ‘the rape of the world,’ [I’m talking about you, Tracy] ... that’s terrifying.

But back to this drawing that seems like it’s from a Driver’s Ed workbook: When I see sentence structures like this in my students’ drafts, I make a little comment in Google Docs that says “sophisticate syntax.” But I’m fascinated that A) these young adult novels are apparently available in full text online for you to screenshot them, and B) she was accessible/popular with audiences younger than 12? The fact that readers of this book would need to know how to say ‘parents’ seems to indicate ... age five? Are kids age five concerned with who will save their souls? [DIGRESSION: I learned while teaching at Gifted & Talented Camp that one of early indicators of ‘giftedness’ = existential crises, a.k.a. wondering what will happen to the earth, who will save the polar bears, WHO WILL SAVE YOUR SOUL, etc. et. al. But readers of this book don’t know how to say ‘fame’ so bygones.]

But also segue: who was Jewel’s audience? Only teenage girls? Because the thing about Lilith Fair is that it had to appeal to both teens who could blast their babysitting money/allowances on a ticket and merch AND “older” [read: 20- and 30-something] ladies who could do the same, but also buy alcohol. Was Jewel the counter-programming to, say, The Indigo Girls? Was she there to bring in the young, naive, philosophy-dude-loving non-feminists?

SE: Maybe? I mean, this sort of raises an interesting question/problem. We have such trouble in this culture distinguishing among things that celebrate women, prominently feature women, and are actually feminist. Lilith Fair was the first two, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the third. I think.

The event billed itself as "a celebration of women in music," and the implication was that it was somehow feminist, that having an event for women artists was itself feminist. But was it? If feminism is just about parity of representation, sure. But if you look at Jewel's songs, they're all about kinda codependent heterosexual fantasies of longing and need. Like if Riot Grrl : Lilith Fair::Shulamith Firestone : Gloria Steinem, Jewel is not even Gloria Steinem. She's like, okay, she's not Phyllis Schafly, but she's TEPID. So: not feminist?

I don't know. I am definitely at that cranky point in my life where I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM saying that some things ARE NOT FEMINIST (yes, I am the Feminist Police, see my badge?) just because they involve women. But maybe the Ladies are all on a continuum of feminism, and maybe that's something that becomes clearer when we examine how their careers developed after the Vag Fest ended. After Pieces of You came Spirit. 

AHP: I always feel bad for sophomore albums. I want to start a support group for sophomore albums. I listen to them more than they deserve and try to love them more than they merit. And 16-year-old AHP really tried with Spirit. There’s a sweet little song called “What’s Simple Is True,” the video for which is, in a move of remarkable foresight, set North of the Wall in Game of Thrones.

But the earnestness of Pieces of You, now smoothed out and synthed out, now seemed a bit overripe. “Hands” makes me feel like I’m listening to an After School Special and “Fat Boy” is just horrible. Fucking HORRIBLE. Tonedeaf song about bullying horrible. But there was a hidden track and you know how I feel about hidden tracks, so I’m pretty sure it stayed in heavy rotation until Lauryn Hill arrived in my life and Jewel became the Velveteen Rabbit of my musical collection, only this Velveteen Rabbit gets lost in the glove compartment, scratched to shit, and thrown in the wastebasket of a Wyoming gas station in 2003.

SE: This seems like an excellent time to bring up this crucial 1999 SPIN magazine review by . . . Sarah Vowell? She says, "once an artist crosses into that seven-zeros zone, the spotlight twists away from her onto her audience. . . In an age of fracture and exasperation, she's selling union and hope, and the worn out American public can't sling their money across record store counters fast enough."

AHP: … Which brings us back to the overarching palatability of Lilith Fair as a whole, a point we’ve discussed at some length. Vowell’s basically touching on the emotive engine of Lilith Fair, a sort of feel-good girl-power that steers clear of alienation or indictment [unless, of course, you’re Tracy Chapman]. It’s somewhat disturbingly close to postfeminism. Or is it postfeminism? Was Lilith Fair just as postfeminist as Spice Girls and Sex and the City?

I mean, we’re past mere representation, right? Like it’s not “enough” just to be a woman and represented in a position of power. Otherwise Condoleezza Rice and Sarah Palin might be considered feminists, even as their policies work to dismantle some of feminism's long-fought battles. Headlining a festival and playing guitar does not a feminist make. But as you allude to, I’m not sure if that matters so much as how Lilith Fair, regardless of its softcore, apolitical, non-castrating quasi-feminism eventually engendered a bunch of feminist politics. Or did it not have that effect on people who were not AHP and SE? [Please help us with this continued quandary in the comments.]

SE: Right, does Jewel herself (or, if I want to make myself laugh, which I always do, “Jewel qua Jewel”) matter? Does the (confused) individual message matter? Does it matter if, after 1999, Jewel did or not develop as an artist in a way that continued to make some sort of claim on feminism or on the story she told about being a singer/songwriter willing to live in her van with her guitar in order to have a shot at telling her stories? I am not going to lie to you, AHP — I couldn’t, I never would — that I recently listened to this cut from 2001’s This Way on the bus and cried lady tears:

And if you want to know why I cried “lady” tears, why I gendered the tears, it is because after 2001, Jewel began transitioning her career in a way that seemed so baldly about marketing and commercial success that whatever mild transgression she tried to push was completely undermined. I am talking, of course, about “Intuition,” which has a (surprisingly) anticapitalist message (“You learn cool from magazines/ You learn love from Charlie Sheen” seems, I don’t know, weirdly prescient for 2003), but is just . . . weird.

She then made this transition from poppy adult contemporary to country to, I don’t know, total confusion. Because here she is dueting “Proud Mary” with Beyonce, who has invited her to do it “nice and divalicious,” and, well, you’ll see:

Just . . . I don’t know. Part of 16-year-old me, the weirdly naive part of me that still thinks that institutions should actually align themselves with the values they espouse — that part of me wants to believe that artists should (be able to?) retain some part of whatever their core motivation was, even when they (like us) grow and change. That even if I want to throw the part of myself that bought Pieces of You to the wolves, complete with her sloppy cotton Old Navy sweaters and her poor personal hygiene and all photos taken of me between the ages of 10 and 23, I still want Jewel — the “old” Jewel, the “real” Jewel — to be out there doing her thing in a way I recognize. Because if Jewel can do it, maybe I can also find a way to keep hanging out with whatever part of 14-year-old Simone is still knocking around in here. Maybe I can also find a way to honor whoever it is she (Younger Me, not Jewel Kilcher, obviously) helped me become, make my past selves legible to, connected to, my present self. I just don’t want Jewel to throw out the overalls. Hers or mine.

AHP: Holy hell, Simone, there’s no way I can top that. So I’ll just put this Jewel paperback quiz question here for us all to ponder:

THE 1990s: drops mic, walks away.


Previously: Natalie Merchant

With five academic degrees between them, Anne Helen Petersen and Simone Eastman can no longer simply "enjoy" anything. They don’t know what to tell you about their accumulating stacks of Jewel-related trade paperbacks.

118 Comments / Post A Comment

Nicole Cliffe

Oh, my God, the girl who has the locker next to mine read "A Night Without Armour" BETWEEN EVERY CLASS. I was way cooler, because I had Gord Downie's "Coke Machine Glow." But that came out senior year, so she had been carrying Jewel around for a really impressive amount of time.


@Nicole Cliffe Coke Machine Glow! Oi. That book. It's currently sitting somewhere deep in my parents basement alongside a copy of "Have Not Been The Same: The Canrock Renaissance 1985-1995". Because I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be a soft-spoken Canadian poet with an electric guitar.

raised amongst catalogs



@Nicole Cliffe aaaah so Canadian I LOVE IT


Jewel isn't much of a dancer or performer like Beyonce is but her voice is spot on.@v

Nicole Cliffe

Also, this entire thing is the greatest thing of all the things.

simone eastbro

@Nicole Cliffe this is my favorite comment thread so far, too!


or maybe just edgy to a certain swath of teenage/early 20s girls who hadn’t yet put together that liking philosophy and cigarettes is not the same thing as being a person of integrity and curiosity? Like I’m just wondering what my MOM was thinking of all this earnest, wrongheaded projection.

Isn't that what "Foolish Games" is about, though? How Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites will tear Winona Rider apart, as it were? I didn't think the chorus could be any clearer.

Besides that, I am really digging the fact that we can get all nostalgic and critical about shit from my childhood. I owned both Pieces of You and Jagged Little Pill on CD, and I played them both until the deteriorated. I might still have them in my CD case that I haven't opened in like 5 years. I always saw them as two sides to the same post-feminist Ur-Woman - despite Morisette's more aggressive tone, the topic of all her songs is pretty much the same as Jewel's songs.


At 14, I had heard Jewel on the radio and not cared much either way when a friend loaned me Pieces of You. I thought it was kind of boring and vapid (which is hilarious considering the awful poems/songs I wrote at the time) and probably broke my friend's heart when I returned it the next day like, "eh."


@SarahP I remember being a kid (I was 9 or 10?) and knowing that Pieces of You was supposed to be the height of depth. And I listened to it and none of it really reached me...but I KEPT listening to it even once I got into Riot Grrl and Tori Amos and came to love that one Indigo Girls album other things with slightly more depth. I guess I was always trying to figure out if 10 year old me was wrong? She wasn't though! Good job 10 year old me!


@elizabeast Oh yeah, that was the same year I got into Tori Amos, too-I guess I was looking for something very different from what Jewel was.


@SarahP At 14 I definitely was turning my nose up at Jewel for being a sellout while clutching my huge pile of Ani Difranco live bootlegs. I was an insufferable indie snob.


@SarahP Let's never forget that these were the days before all of the music in the world was on the internet so you were pretty limited to what the Camelot or The Wall in your local mall was willing to sell you. Sometimes I'd get lucky and my dad would take me to Barnes & Noble where I could find things that were less mainstream, but it was still kind of rough. Jewel was considered PRETTY ALTERNATIVE in my small Pennsylvania town!

(Only tangentially related story: I will forever love the Borders employee who knew exactly what I wanted when I walked up to him in the music section and said "Um, do you have...I think it's called...Neko Case?" and pronounced her name wrong. "Blacklisted" is one of my favorite albums of all time. May he live forever.)


BY THE WAY, Simone, I am still serious about sending you "Clint Eastwood as Lilith Fair member" emails--I spilled a glass of water on my computer a week ago and it's okay now, but it took us both a while to recover.


This is GLORIOUS, as the past articles in this series have been GLORIOUS, but I have to say the following about Jewel: ugh, her voice sets my teeth on edge. I think she might actually have been the reason I never really looked into getting tickets to Lilith Fair, actually.

fondue with cheddar

@stonefruit I'm with you there.


It is a testament to AHP and SE's crazy powers that the post on my least favorite ever Lilith artist is my favorite so far.

simone eastbro

@thisisunclear ALL THE LIKES


theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese foolish gaaaaaa-a-a-a-aaaaames are teeeeeeeeeeeeeariiing me apaaa-ha-haaart

I have nothing constructive to say. I love these Lillith posts but I am not sure I love being earwormed by them. AND YET I CONTINUE TO WATCH THE CLIPS.


@Scandyhoovian That song will always remind me of the high school talent show for the "gifted" students (I was not one of them) wherein one girl sang "Foolish Games" but ADDED A VERSE OF HER OWN. Something about how the guy came back and brought her a rose and now they were happy in love. At the time, I had to hide my eyes behind my hands because the spectacle was just too uncomfortable. In retrospect? That girl had guts!


The important thing about Jewel is STEVE POLTZ!! He was her boyfriend at the time, and co-wrote "You were meant for me" and is hyperactive and amazing on stage and hilarious and tells great stories and JUST SO GOOD. Everyone, listen to Steve Poltz!


@swirrlygrrl Was he the guy in the video for "You Were Meant For Me"? Because I always thought there was a little more to that dude than the TV screen was letting on...


@swirrlygrrl POLTZIE! Oh man, my bff was super into him freshman year of college. What was the song with call-and-response about the wrong size wrench, or something?


@swirrlygrrl Absolutely! He's coming to town in August with a ticket price of only $13 and the venue is rather small, I am so there. P.S. Just checked his website, he's also opening for Jewel on her "Greatest Hits" tour.


@FlufferNutter Yes, he was!!


Oh wow, Jewel and Lilith Fair. So many memories.

The feminist credentials of Lilith Fair are interesting to me, though, because the same Christmas my mother gave me the second Lilith Fair album, she also gave me the first Women and Songs album -- which is a late-90s series of compilation albums apparently released only in Canada, also headlining Jewel.

So I cannot think of one of these albums without thinking of the other, and on this comparison Lilith Fair is the edgy feminist album, hands down, no question. Women and Songs was... well, I think the cover shown on Wikipedia says it all.

Judith Slutler

You guys, I definitely had forgotten that Jewel even existed.


@Emmanuelle Cunt I'd forgotten she was involved with Lilith Fair at all. I went to the first LF when it came through Dallas, and it was all Sarah Mac and Lisa Loeb. I do recall everybody got a mixtape of songs from up-and-coming girl groups like Save Ferris. Also: biore strip samples. WE WERE MESMERIZED, Y'ALL.


@Emmanuelle Cunt Also, now I wish I knew where the hell this free gimme tape they handed out was, since it does not appear to exist on the internet.

simone eastbro

@angermonkey i must find this. solemn vow. it's on.

Judith Slutler

@angermonkey SAVE FERRIS! Now that used to be one of my favorite bands.


Was Jewel ever really "cool" though? Because in my junior high/high school, she was emphatically not. (None of the Lilith ladies were, with the exception of Alanis, Fiona, and Tori, I think.) I'm pretty sure there was no cachet towards liking her in particular. Like, it was probably likely that you also listened to all of Sheryl Crow. Jewel's the safest, blandest option on the Lilith menu.

But, yeah, the weird middle class art kids ::cough:: me ::cough:: listened to her definitely, because it seemed like she was one of us: over-earnest, writing poetry, getting by on strumming her guitar (PAINTERS. Omigod, forever 8th grade me and that song.) The hippie-flower-child like persona was so appealing to us cynics dressed in black, who never really had the courage for full goth. (Proto Emo!)

I personally disliked when it seemed like she went full pop star (god, remember those stupid Intuition girly razor ads? You could not escape that crappy song) because it seemed so antithetical to her persona -- after all the over earnestness about saving the world with our two hands, the in-your-face making bank as a yodel-voiced, inauthentic, older Britney knockoff? No, thank you, Kilcher. Do your country thing.


@proudsquarepeg "The hippie-flower-child like persona was so appealing to us cynics dressed in black, who never really had the courage for full goth. (Proto Emo!)" I just...love this so much.


@proudsquarepeg I never owned Pieces of You but loved the singles, and I remember having a full-on meltdown in a CVS over that goddamned Intuition song. In retrospect, other things were probably troubling me at the time.


Jewel was so... of her time. Like, I will relisten to Tracy Chapman, and Alanis, and Fiona, Tori, Natalie, Suzanne Vega, no problem- their songs are classics and timeless and forever. But Jewel, Sarah McL, and Aimee Mann will never move past this discrete time when I found them. Not that I didn't adore those albums at the time, but apparently I don't love them enough? Or they worked for me in those moments only? Like, I know I'm having a regressive pity party for myself if I find the need to seek out and play "Foolish Games".

RK Fire

@proudsquarepeg As a longtime Tori fan whose angst spoke to my soul, I feel obliged to clarify that Tori Amos was definitely not a part of Lilith Fair. (I'm also a fan of Sarah McLachlan, so I don't have anything against Lilith Fair, it's just that I always felt that Tori was doing her own thing with the faeries and the Neil Gaiman references and all..)

Also, I wanted to think that Intuition was actually a subversive anti-capitalist anthem, but then I didn't know what to do with the razor cross-promotion. Performance art gone too far?


@proudsquarepeg I would argue that Sarah McLachlan is actually cool beyond Lilith Fair context. There is the context for her in which she's on the Buffy soundtrack and is girl music and all, but there's also the context in which DMC is possibly the world's biggest Sarah McLachlan fan, and I will namedrop her along with all the obscure hip hop shit I like when I'm trying to impress guys, and so forth.


@Ellie She was also on one of the X-Files soundtracks, which ok, isn't recent, and probably doesn't count as cool either, but is at least a very different context than Lilith Fair.


@Ellie Oh, I'm not a Sarah McLachlan hater by any means; I defy anyone ANYONE to not break down to the awesome power that is "When She Loved Me." :)

I just meant that, for my personal, particular brand of crazy, my Mirrorball CD was beloved back in the day, but now it's covered in dust, mostly without great apology (maybe I should rediscover it? I remember goofily humming "Ice Cream" for days on end.) It's been years since I've played that, which I don't think I can say about other Lilith, and Lilith-adjacent (sorry @RK Fire!) female singer-songwriters that I loved.


@proudsquarepeg Um, where is the requisite Cry Alert before mentioning, "When She Loved Me?"
That song is just painful. I need to walk away from the keyboard so as not to flood it with tears.


@Ellie pro wrestler Mick Foley got majorly into anti-rape advocacy largely via being a major Tori Amos fanboy. He's on the RAINN board now, I think


So, I was at the inaugural Lilith Fair, and though I was tepid on Jewel beforehand, she won my heart forever by yodeling her head off at the end of her set. It was 1 million times more interesting than anything else she'd done prior. But I definitely boohooed over some boy to the tune of You Were Meant for Me.

Never stop writing this series.


guys, Pieces of You (aka Pieces of Poo, to my bestie and me) has the most hilarious lyrics of all time. just so tone-deaf and ridiculous and bordering on offensive. this verse proves my point particularly well:
"You say he's a Jew, does it mean that he's tight?
You say he's a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he's a Jew, he'll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he's a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
'Cause he's pieces of you? "

Anne Helen Petersen



@Anne Helen Petersen I was also a bit sad to see no mention of I'm Sensitive, which seems SO anti-Lilith that I can't even stand it.

simone eastbro

@mynamebackwards OK I actually did not recognize those as real lyrics from "Pieces of You" and am reeling over here, help


@simone eastbro don't forget the verse where she says "faggot" over and over. cringe-inducing doesn't even begin to describe it: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jewel/piecesofyou.html

simone eastbro

@mynamebackwards i'm just fanning myself now.

also, nominee for best song to use the word "faggot" as part of powerful social commentary: Patty Griffin's "Tony," duh.



simone eastbro

@stonefruit like it's kind of embarrassing for me that i listen to that song on infinite repeat sometimes, because it feels . . . completely inappropriate?


@simone eastbro No! Not at all inappropriate. That song gets me all wallowing in my feelings. Actually that whole album is solid, but Tony made me cry so hard the first time I heard it, and then get really angry with the world.

I would absolutely put it on a mix of social commentary songs, along with Catie Curtis's song Radical.

simone eastbro

@stonefruit ALSO amy ray, "let it ring."


@simone eastbro incidentally the day you guys do a Remembering Lilith for the Indigo Girls is going to be a big day for me. BIG day.


@stonefruit !!!!!!!
Every time I come to the Hairpin, I'm holding my breath, just waiting for the Indigo Girls and Dar Williams. It's one of those situations where there will be such an emotional let-down after I read it that I won't know what to look forward to.


@stonefruit I am not exaggerating when I say that I expect on the Indigo Girls day to pee with relief/excitement.


somewhat OT, but the 1999 Spin review featured a big ad for Beck's Mutations which was/is MY JAM.

I want to go back to a time when that was new.


@allofthewine I was listening to that over the weekend!


DISAGREE on the Nirvana Unplugged album. That "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" cover alone earned that Grammy.

Also, this one is my favorite so far in this fantastic series.


@supernintendochalmers REALLY. That album is completely freaking amazing. AHP why do you say these things, it hurts us so!


OH WOW VICIOUS BURN: SE: It’s just, ugh, if only I couldn’t see into the future and KNOW that some Jewel fan would get scorched by a dude with lank, greasy hair and a smelly army jacket who’s “really into philosophy.”

This piece was awesome. I don't know if it was on purpose or not (I'm the right age to have heard Foolish Games a LOT, and I ended up loving philosophy & coffee & cigarettes & baroque music) but I became that guy - gross greasy long hair & smelly army jacket and all.

I think I really love this series - especially this piece - because it seems like the young boys & girls with their books of Jim Morrison & Jewel poems - as much as we weren't that bright, and our favorite poets weren't really great poets - we're the ones who love poetry now, who grew up into, like, us?

And I wonder a lot how it happened, and I don't know that it's something that can ever explicitly be explained, but I feel like I definitely get it a lot more when I read these.


"shooting misogynist fish in a gender studies barrel" <3


I sang 'You Were Meant For Me' in the shower this morning and not even this article will make me feel ashamed!


@ceeemcee it's one of my very favorite shower songs, seriously


@ceeemcee I love to belt it...and then whisper the line "I know you hate it, when I leave the light on". I'm shocked people hate it! The song mentions pancakes and maple syrup, what's not to like?

Jolly Farton

@ceeemcee Do you never put wet towels
on the floor anymoooore


I vividly remember that "lived in her car" narrative! But now that I'm not 12 I see what bullshit it was to sell us a 21-year-old with a "she struggled for so long!" story. Gimme a break. She struggled for like a year and a half, maybe.

Also, remember that Funny or Die video from a couple years ago when Jewel showed up in disguise at a karaoke bar and sang her own songs? I liked her for that.


@supernintendochalmers Ahahahhaha! I always (why, I don't know in 2013) emphatically tell my BF that Jewel did not live in a car. Now, I have no idea whether she did or not (or even why it gets under my skin so much), but I want to believe she is full of it. I don't know. Maybe she did... while it was parked inside a fancy-pants suburban garage.

Also, I remember having the copy of Sassy with Jewel in the "One to Watch" feature. I believe her last name was used... and I think it's Kilcher? Also, I stood in a B. Dalton once totally hate-reading A Night Without Armor. It took me about an hour but the rage stayed for far longer. Oy, issues--I don't even know the woman!


@Hellcat Remember when A Night Without Armour came out and Kurt Loder totally confronted Jewel on MTV News about her misuse of the word "casualty"? It made me love him SO HARD. (But she was sort of cheeky in her response, so it made me sort of like her, too!)


@FlufferNutter I cherish that memory.




i can't ever remember caring about jewel one way or another, but i love every single thing about this post, its authors, and the series.


Way harsh, Tai.


...for what it's worth?

Jewel resonated with a lot of people (*cough* girls in their teens/early 20s) because of her earnestness. She made it okay to be earnest and sad, and to be unashamed of those feelings.
For those of us who were not allowed for various reasons (hyper-conservative parents, por ejemplo) to express our emotions of love and loss, damn, Jewel was a blessing.

No, her lyrics aren't profound, but I don't think they were intended to be--Jewel's songs are like her voice: simple and sweet.

Ain't nothing wrong with that.


@OxfordComma Thanks for this. I was starting to think I was the only one here who felt this way.


@maebytonight : You're welcome!

It's easy (and sometimes right!) to be hyper-critical of art that we used to love...but at other times? It is totally okay to accept that art for what it was, when it was, for who you were at the time.


@OxfordComma I agree. I think part of my discomfort at reading the article and the comments was that like two days ago a Jewel song came on the radio, and I thought, "Man, I haven't heard this song in YEARS!" I cranked up the radio and sang along and basically just happily relived my middle-school years.

evil melis

Without Jewel, there is no Taylor Swift.


@evil melis : Fair enough. *shrug*

Anne Helen Petersen

@OxfordComma My response would be that there's certainly value and pleasure in noncritical nostalgia, but don't we have tons of avenues that promote that already? Don't mistake me, I'm not criticizing you for actually enjoying a Jewel song -- I certainly do -- I'm just suggesting that our work here is to do what "I Love the 90s," etc. et. al, does not....


@Anne Helen Petersen : I respect that. I take issue with criticizing an artist for being portrayed in a way that she could not necessarily help--I highly doubt Jewel demanded that Time put her on their cover as the representative for Lilith Fair, and she did grow up poor, and she did become a success, which is pretty fucking cool, no matter to whom it happens.

(And yes, it would have been AMAZING to have equal media coverage of Tracy Chapman, because whoa.)

Additionally, in the 90s, few artists had any say over how their image was used by their label--the labels had control, by and large, and the artists had to go along with it.

I have absolutely no issue with the argument that just because it's made by a woman, it doesn't mean it's feminist--but I would venture to ask this question instead:

Are we, as women, obligated in any way to give/portray a feminist message in our chosen art?


@OxfordComma I figure if Iggy Pop's lyrics get a pass from anybody, Jewel ought to be extended the same courtesy. And I love that leathery old man, so


@OxfordComma Thank you for your comments. I am right there with you :).


I loved reading this, not because I like Jewel, but because I hate Jewel.


billy joel was "too subversive" but steely dan songs about drugs and prostitution and cousin-love are a-okay? i cannot get past this to continue reading.

simone eastbro

@darthvadersmom TRY LIVING IT, SISTER


Does anyone else remember this: http://igcwords.blogspot.com/2007/07/jewel-vs-kurt-loder.html

<3 u, Kurt Loder.


@aeroaeroaero See my comment above! That MTV moment is burned in my brain for some reason. Oh, Kurt, you're so cranky and great.


@FlufferNutter So glad this is a brain burner for someone else. In fact, the clip inspired me to fill out (and MAIL!) Seventeen's reader's choice survey and write in "Kurt Loder" for every single category. Also, it's fitting that Kurt Loder informed me of Kurt Cobain's death. Circle of Kurts.


@aeroaeroaero I am not even going to watch, I'm just going to assume it's Kurt Loder's bit about "That's not what 'casualty' means. Idiot."


@aeroaeroaero Kurt Loder is apparently a major libertarian, which doesn't really surprise me, since what are libertarians but very old teenagers?


Hey, so it's a little forest-for-the-trees but I can't not comment on it.

The reading comprehension screenshot was probably intended for struggling readers in middle and high school. Not five year olds, nor kids at a gifted & talented camp.

Your privilege is peaking out again.

Anne Helen Petersen

@brightlybee All I can say is that you're absolutely right. Understanding and recognizing privilege is a never-ending process, and I fail at it all the time, no matter my own attempts to interrogate the past and present privilege afforded me by my class, race, and education level. No joke thank you for helping with that process.


@Anne Helen Petersen No worries. I know you meant no ill will. Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

simone eastbro

@brightlybee yes, thank you! i would say more but once again, AHP has it.

simone eastbro

@simone eastbro @brightlybee @Anne Helen Petersen okay, i will say more. i went back and looked at the source and yes, you are right. and no, we didn't know. (the point i was interested in was that t.c. is not in that kind of book, jewel is, which is, by itself, not objectionable.) we were a little tone deaf about it, and it was irresponsible of me not to have that piece in mind when we used the material.

so: yes, of course our privilege is peeking out. i don't think either of us ever thinks that it isn't, or that we've got some handle on that or on our own intersectional identities or subject positions. and while i am responsible for my own reactions, i will say that that statement in particular made it hard for me to process the rest of what you were saying for a while. privilege and power are things i take extremely seriously and i work hard to hold myself responsible, and i need and want to be called out. so: thank you for pointing it out. i appreciate it.


Also brush with fame my cousin toured with Jewel as her drummer in the late 90s. When I was 15 I thought that was SO COOL.


Jewel was my "favorite artist" for several years in elementary school! After Hanson and Bewitched, I think "Pieces of You" was the third CD I acquired. (I loved Hanson and Jewel equally and thought both were very deep...so...but also, I was 10)

Olympic Hopeful

I first heard Pieces of You when I lived in Homer, Alaska, as a middle schooler. It was introduced to me as "Hey, that Kilcher girl made songs that PEOPLE OUTSIDE ALASKA are listening to!" And I was like, "What? Gimme that Sony Discman so I can hear this anomaly." And then we all lambasted her for not being Alaskan enough while also secretly, fervently wishing that Jewel hadn't used up all the slots for Famous People from Homer, Alaska, since Tom Bodett had already hogged the other slot.


OMG... I love you ladies and let's just say I'm a wee bit older than you...I couldn't finish the article so if you have covered this, I'm sorry...as funny and quick as you are (and you ARE!!!!), aren't you giving Jewel more playtime than she deserves?? I mean she got more than enough because of the whole homeless thing...I'm mad I even started to read it but I did because YOU were the ones writing. Nowhere else would I click on this...nowhere!!

simone eastbro

@Niffy sorry, sisterfriend. here's your five bucks/minutes back. :/


@simone eastbro No need...you are funny and quick as hell!!! I just hate Jewel and I'm mad because I thought you were going to tell me something to make me like her..it's like I'm always reading diet info but it's stuff that I (we ALL) know already! That's all. Please keep writing because you do it so well...


Write about a new diet..I'll devour it!


I didn't know we were supposed to be embarrassed about liking Jewel? I mean, only for Pieces of You...but those songs were my childhood. Paula Cole? Yes, I try to hide that "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" keeps making my top ten on Spotify.

But uuuuughhh I forgot about the Intuition song. I think I blamed it on Nelly Furtado. I swear it was in an ad for women's razors, or perhaps that was a fever dream of mine?


@beanie yeah i agree, i still listen to these songs every once and a while for the wave of middle school nostalgia, but I do not do so ironically.


What I most distinctly remember about Jewel was that video set in the bathroom. The apparently public bathroom with the fake ivy... oh, the aesthetics of the 90s.

simone eastbro

@mlle.gateau THE POP UP VIDEO VERSION IS ON YOUTUBE. (I will let you choose your own favorite screencaps.)


@simone eastbro "She thinks of bathrooms as sanctuaries where the soul is truly alone with itself." !!! Also, I apologize for calling the ivy fake. Pop Up Video remains the best.


Jewel and the ladies of the Lillith 90s were huge for me, because they really made me believe that women could be as successful as men. I was obsessed with Pieces of You and still love it unabashedly. There are definitely some tracks I skip, but Morning Song is one of my favorite love songs of all time. [important to note: I got the CD for my 11th birthday]

I was also pretty depressed with the trajectory of Jewel's career. Alanis definitely had much better follow up songs. But Jewel will always own a piece of my heart (you like what I did there?).


simone eastbro

for anyone who's interested, I am writing about the principles that underlie my work as a cultural critic over at my tumblr.



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Foolish Games, oh man that song accompanied me through so much 7th through 10th grade (or so) heartache.
Listening to it now I realize it is that stage of dating an obnoxious hipster (I add obnoxious because I know hipsters who are very cool people and I don't want to generalize) before you realize they are an obnoxious hipster. He keeps inviting you to jump in puddles and he is cute so you are totally into it. When every conversation is - you: Oh, I think I get it, is it this? OH: Er... No. You don't really get it. But that's ok, let's change the subject.
Also, I think this song spoke to me because Jewel is 100% in my vocal register, so when I sang it I sounded great. And in 7th grade I still thought that my reasonably pretty voice could translate to a career as a pop princess.


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