In case it’s slipped anyone’s mind, Jewel is an absolutely ridiculous vocalist. Just take a listen to her new single, “Pretty Faced Fool,” which appeared on her latest album Picking Up The Pieces, released last September. At times she’s raspy and reaching, at others breathy and vulnerable. At the end of the third chorus, she belts out a shattering, shimmering high followed immediately by a smoky growl. In short, it’s mesmerizing, and not overly so – Jewel doesn’t seek to blow you away with her vocal prowess, she employs it delicately in service of the song, and it doing so achieves the former. If you don’t have chills by the end of the simple strings-and-picked-guitar outro, you’re not listening.
The song itself is a feat as well. It’s the only one on the album she didn’t have a hand in writing – in fact, most were written and produced by her alone – rather, it was penned by friend and musical colleague Kip Moore (he joined her on tour in 2010, and they’ve collaborated further since), Dan Couch, and Brett James. Like Jewel’s vocal, the song is simple, strong, and tightly written (“I think it’s time I let you know / babe, I’m letting go”) – the hook is clever, but not too clever, words repeat and self-reference without taking away from the simple emotion of the thought.
“What good’s a heart that’s too damn tough to break / that’s too damn cool to take a chance on love / yeah, I took chance on us / now that I look like I’m just a fool / I think you oughta know you’re just a pretty faced fool who let one get away,” Jewel sings. It’s the perfect build to a perfect conclusion, both lyrically and melodically, and balances vulnerability and grit, naiveté and wisdom in subtle synchrony.
“Pretty Faced Fool” is one of those songs that impresses on first listen and on fiftieth repeat, strong up front with tiny twists of lyric or vocal performance that catch you even once you think you’ve got it figured out. It’s a bit of a heart-wrencher, but hit that repeat button anyway – as Jewel says, what good’s a heart that’s too damn tough to break?