Add this to the list of things I thought I’d never say—”Check out this awesome Jewel video!”
For real though, I’m not sure what kind of YouTube vortex I went down that landed me on Jewel videos, but it happened. Wait, I do remember. I had intentionally looked up “Good Mother” by Jan Arden. (Ya fuck it, I did that; it’s a great song and I was in the mood for a powerful female vocals at the time, sue me). After my Jann Arden belt-out was over, I turned to the sidebar where they put suggested videos, and there was Jewel, but I didn’t go for the immediate nostalgia of those 90s videos we all know so well, no I went for innocuously titled video: “Jewel sings at karaoke in disguise.” Harmless enough. A modest 24, 000 views. Good to steal 4 minutes of my life, maybe make me laugh. Oh boy was I pleased.
The concept was trite enough, we’ve all seen celebrities in disguise videos, but there was just something different about this one that had me from the beginning. First of all, it had been years since I’d actually saw Jewel, and she still looked really great, but it wasn’t just good ‘ol Jewel that made it for me. I still can’t really place exactly what it was about this video that was so great. The editing? The small-town cast of characters? The songs? There was just something perfect about this whole thing; a je n’est sai quoi? Apparently I’m not the only one, as my favourite comment goes to YouTube user ‘Randy She’ with: “What is it about this vid that makes you watch it over and over?” I don’t know Randy She, I don’t know.
When it was over, naturally I clicked the next obvious suggested video in my YouTube Jewel vortex—”Best Howard Stern interview with Jewel.” I guess I was thinking, ‘Oh this’ll be good. Howard Stern’s going to make poor little Jewel so uncomfortable.’ WRONG! Jewel doesn’t get uncomfortable. Jewel is the master of her own desitny. Jewel turns men into little boys. Marvel as she even transforms Howard Stern from chauvinist pig into sensitive, smitten sweetheart. Truly though, this is also an incredible performance from the consummate radio interviewer, and together they cover a lot of ground in 45 minutes: her well-documented rise to fame while living homeless out of her car, her abusive relationship with her father and subsequent forgiveness, her mother’s abandonment and ill-timed return to Jewel’s life, the time she hitchhiked across America and into Mexico (during which time she penned Who Will Save Your Soul), going on tour with Neil Young, being mentored by Bob Dylan, and anecdote after lovely anecdote after surprising anecdote.
But it’ not just the unexpected adventure lying secretly below the personal history of America’s folk sweetheart that makes this interview so compelling. It’s the sheer confidence and self-assuredness that she exudes, the motivational tidbits she drops about being true to oneself, and the level of perception and insight into her own character that she is able to apply to her life and career, that qualifies her to legitimately say she knows herself, and makes her, at least in this video, so heroic to me.