Jewel was a big deal a few years back--in spite of herself. She was a pop singer with a nice voice, but she dispensed her hippie homilies with a spooky intensity, as if she thought her words were closer in meaning to Toni Morrison's than Toni Braxton's. Her popularity proved that people will put up with a lot as long as they can sing along with the chorus.
On her last two albums the hooks mostly disappeared, and so did the fans. Jewel has taken the hint. 0304, produced by Lester Mendez (he helped Shakira cross over), aggressively mines rap, pop and dance in search of something that'll get you moving. Mendez isn't picky, and the first single, Intuition, opens with an accordion riff inspired by a Ms. Dynamite song. Still, it's a good riff, and Intuition is a tight, erotic song. Even Jewel is swept up by it, purring something about letting your mind go. On Doin' Fine, she keeps things weightless, singing, "Come on, baby, let's just have fun/Let's breathe stardust into our lungs."
There are a few sanctimonious lapses, but for the most part 0304 (as in this year and next) has the spirit of a summer pop record. Like all pop records, though, it rises or falls on the strength of its hooks, and while 0304 works relentlessly to sweeten your day, it isn't so good at keeping your attention. Mendez's beeps, burps and rhythm changes are pretty familiar by now, and the slow songs really sag. It's a summer record, but maybe summer 2000. --J.T.