Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jewel, "Ten"

Fifteen years ago, a young acoustic-based songstress named Jewel released Pieces of You, one of the greatest albums ever heard.  In the years since, she has experimented with a variety of musical styles, with varying degrees of success.  Sadly, her experience in writing and recording for a major label nearly drowned out the inner songwriting voice that once allowed her to write such memorable verses.  Fortunately, her new single "Ten" inspires hope that she may find that voice once again.

Granted, "Ten" is based on an old adage - a songwriting tactic that often proves to be a recipe for disaster. (George Strait's "The Breath You Take" is a classic example of how it can go wrong) We've all heard the age-old advice that we should "count to ten" before letting anger take control of us.  Jewel applies those words of wisdom in the setting of a marital dispute.  But what does Jewel do in order to give a fresh take on an old saying?

It's simple.  Jewel makes the song interesting by giving us insight into the thoughts and feelings of the character who, in the heat of conflict, is about to leave her man for good.  She chooses to stop and count to ten.

"One - I still want to hate you
Two, three - I still want to leave
Four - Searching for the door
Five - Then I look in your eyes
Six - Take a deep breath
Seven - Take a step back.
Eight, Nine - I don't know why we even started this fight
By the time I get to Ten, I'm right back in your arms again"

By the time Jewel reaches the final chorus, she finds herself counting once again - only this time she is not counting in an effort to calm herself down.  This time she is counting her blessings, as she has now realized what a good thing she has.

Is Jewel claiming that any marital dispute can be solved in ten literal seconds?  Probably not.  The lyrics could have something of a figurative meaning.  'Counting to ten' could refer to letting any necessary amount of time pass in order to defuse anger.  In real life, many a troubled relationship could be salvaged if couples heeded this advice, and counted to ten.  The song has a message, and it's a message that can be practically applied.  This is relevant.  This is real.  Jewel delivers this message through her soft signature warble, backed by banjo- and mandolin-laced production that sounds great on its own without getting in the way of the lyrics. 

"Ten" easily rivals "Stronger Woman" as the finest single of Jewel's country career.  If country radio is ever to embrace Jewel, this is the song that they should start with.  "Ten" is a ten!

JEWEL'S SCORE:  10 (The song is aptly titled!)
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)