Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jewel, "Foolish Games"

Song: "Foolish Games"
Artist: Jewel
Album: Pieces Of You
Written by: Jewel Kilcher
Year: 1995
Key: Dm (E♭m in single version)
Classification: SF2
Lyrical content: the drama you've been craving (is losing its luster); inability to use an umbrella = sexy
Where used: verse

I remember a time in 1995 when Jewel was scheduled to play a very small club in Houston, and the word on the street was that you didn't want to miss this girl if you could help it. If you pointed out that she was only 21 years old with just a guitar and no history of any kind, you were met with the observation that you'd just described Bob Dylan at the time of his first album. Faced with the threat of missing out on the latest Next Dylan, I took the easy way out: I found a conflict and I avoided that whole mess entirely.

Even so, I was quite happy to admit that I thought that Jewel made the radio a better place in 1995-1996. Not, like, a whole lot better, but I certainly smiled a small but measurable amount and stopped flipping around the dial every time I stumbled across one of her songs. When I finally succumbed to the inevitable and purchased Pieces Of You a few years later, I discovered the frustrating truth, which is that the singles that were getting airplay were getting airplay precisely because they were just about the only listenable songs on the album. Everything else was incredibly precious, quasi-poetic and self-consciously "deep."

It had the unfortunate result of casting a pall retroactively on songs that I had previously liked, one of which was "Foolish Games." Previously, I'd been able to dismiss the overwrought drama as an anomaly that was easily counterbalanced with a heart-tugging vocal and melody. I'd eventually realize that they were all intertwined. (I would also learn that the single version was a completely different recording in a completely different key -- bumped up from Dm to E♭m -- which was enough to change the entire thrust of her vocal.) Considering the lyrics -- blagging on about art, rife with self-loathing in the company of a guy who sounds for all the world like a pretentious, narcissistic d-bag -- she almost had no choice but to use the SFCP. Is "Foolish Games" sensitive? Oh, my, yes; not only does the word pop up in the song itself, this is the singer, after all, who included on her debut a song actually called "I'm Sensitive." Everything that the SFCP is can be found right here, right down to the bleeding heart and borderline-tearful delivery. It's the kind of story, and the kind of guy, that can move a 22-year-old to romantic agony and ten years later make the same person hang her head in abashed disbelief that she was ever naive enough to fall for his line. And although she has a very long way to go, if you listen closely enough to the chorus, you can hear Jewel in the process of starting to grow from the former woman in to the latter.

Full song: Jewel, "Foolish Games"
Listen to the SFCP clip for this song