Sound — 5
Pop rock, folk, adult contemporary... and now country. Jewel manages to cover a wide range of styles, and is often able to incorporate more than one into a song. Released in June 2008, Perfectly Clear marks Jewel's first country album, shocking some of her die-hard folk loving fans, and shocking even country listeners themselves. With country taking a large form of today's modern music due to contemporary artists such as Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, it doesn't seem like a particularly bad move for her. She's managed to work with many styles, as can be seen by her single "Intuition" which had a dance-pop feel. But despite her flexibility as an artist, the songs just aren't strong enough to really establish her in the genre of country. While the album released two moderately successful singles ("Stronger Woman" and "I Do"), they weren't strong enough to keep her in the charts for very long, and a third single, "Till It Feels like Cheating" was only in the charts for one week. The album relied too heavily on hopes for a strong single that would propel the rest of the album, therefore leading the other songs to suffer. The band is fine, Jewel's voice even fits the country genre quite well, but the songs are not memorable, and certainly not breaking any ground. The only stand-out track is the title track, also the final one on the album. It's simple, folksy piano melody along with Jewel's emotional voice is a perfect combination, and the only right note hit on the album. Overall, like Bon Jovi's and even Jessica Simpson's, Jewel's album seems to be more about commercializing a well known artist into a genre where she doesn't belong. Not the best marketing strategy for an artist who has broken so much ground with her early work.
Lyrics — 4
Even if one isolates this work without comparing it to her previous, it is still a weak album, especially lyrically. On "I Do," she says, "Love is a game" one track later, "Love Is a Garden." It's themes of simplicity never hit deep, especially from an artist who had so much to say in the past. It's hardly poetry, and never tells a story quite effectively. "Till It Feels Like Cheating", a song actually not written by Jewel, but by Lisa Carver and Liz Rose (famous for her work with Taylor Swift) is actually one of the album's stronger tracks lyrically, speaking about separation from a loved one, and the strong feelings that come back when they are reunited. It really isn't until the title track (at the end, mind you) that Jewel seems to regain her audience again. Speaking to a leaving lover, she seems to be coming to terms with herself as she sings the song, telling him in the end that his reasons are "perfectly clear". But retrospectively, all the songs leading up to it are so weak, that most people don't even get to this gem of a song.
Overall Impression — 5
Overall, Jewel should stick to what she does best, and what feels right. Country does not suit her voice as much as folk and it certainly does not suit her songwriting either. While I normally applaud artists for stepping outside the box, and not doing the same thing over and over because it works, the album seemed to be about merchandising the country music genre, simply because it is popular currently. While I highly recommend the title track of the album, I also recommend the reader to look into Jewel's previous work and skip this album. She is still and amazing artist who paved the way for many folk and female singers, and her early work is extremely groundbreaking and poetic.