Jewel's back story as a sensitive singer/songwriter busking her way across the country while living out of her van carries so much mythic weight it winds up overshadowing the entirety of her career, much of which does not consist of simple folky songs as Greatest Hits, her first-ever compilation, makes clear. Released in 2013, two years after her Grammy Award-winning children's album but three after her second country album, Sweet & Wild, Greatest Hits rounds up all of Jewel's big hits, a move that emphasizes how often she's gunned for the top of the charts. Not long after 1995's debut Piece of You and its three smash singles ("Who Will Save Your Soul," "You Were Meant for Me," "Foolish Games") turned into a platinum hit, she began broadening her sound, lathering strings upon "Hands" from 1998's Spirit, shaking off lingering preciousness for her 2001 adult alternative set This Way (hit single, "Standing Still"), and then taking a sharp left turn for 2003's dance-pop makeover 304 (hit single, "Intuition"). That album lost her some folk purists so she made a partial return to the sound for 2006's Goodbye Alice in Wonderland before finding a new audience within the parameters of contemporary country. Taken album by album, these turns were sometimes bewildering but compressed into a hits collection, they do seem to follow crowd-pleasing logic, emphasizing Jewel's knack for pleasing melodies. That instinct to satisfy a broad audience extends to the new cuts added to the Greatest Hits -- the gleaming insistent adult pop of "Two Hearts Breaking" fits right into modern radio circa 2013, but the bigger tell is the inclusion of re-recordings of "You Were Meant for Me" and "Foolish Games," performed as duets with the Pistol Annies and Kelly Clarkson, respectively, each a bid for the continued patronage of her country and pop audiences.
Greatest Hits Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine