When Jewel Kilcher's first two singles infected the airwaves (if you didn't remember "Who Will Save Your Soul?" and "You Were Meant for Me" before, now you can hate me for reminding you), we the people embraced her as a lovable, yodeling, snaggle-toothed next-trailer neighbor. Her debut album spent nearly two years on the Billboard 200, selling more than 10 million copies in the US alone. At first, I never would've predicted that this Alaskan-raised outhouse enthusiast—who may or may not have lived in a car?—would've served as inspiration for my junior prom dress, Madonna, Amy Lee, AND Instagram, but she did. For real.
"Foolish Games" wasn't even a single from the aforementioned debut, but rather a diamond tune tucked away in the deeply moving Batman & Robin soundtrack (not being sarcastic—when was the last time you listened to that Smashing Pumpkins song with the really long title or "Gotham City" by R. Kelly? #smashhits). As soon as my 16-year-old eyeballs glimpsed the moody (read: palatable goth) video, I was sold. Jewel was officially a style icon.
Look at that horse. That horse is amazing. That horse is Jewel letting us know that while she's about to appear in a fancy dress and makeup, she's still a natural gal. It is also big, muscular, and shiny, which is Jewel's way of suggesting she's into dark and sexy things.
There's Jewel! Dark and sexy emo Jewel. This Jewel should have her own filter on the 'gram because she looks fucking great for an Alaskan yodeler and then we could all look like an Alaskan yodeler on social media too.
Atmospherics, atmospherics...here's where the video announces itself as a meditation on the solitude of heartbreak. You know that moment when you're sharing a limo to junior prom with your date and his pals, and you're feeling pretty ballsy because you're wearing your sort of goth dress and you've had a swig or two of Everclear? That moment when you think to yourself that no one will notice if you sneak a kiss with your date's best friend, and it wouldn't matter anyway because you're not actually DATING your date, just hanging out as friends? But then everybody DOES notice, and a bunch of people get really mad at you, and you end up hitching a ride in someone else's limo, and the last thing you see is your date sitting solo on a curb looking bummed? This is that moment. That lonely fallen shard of a tree is your date sitting solo on a curb. It's you sitting on the floor of your bedroom, tearfully chronicling the night's events in your journal as you wonder what the consequences will be in free period. It's poetry. By Jewel.
Let's acknowledge the song for a moment. Jewel is singing about some dark and sexy guy who stood in her doorway, smoking cigarettes and feeling moved by Baroque. Sixteen-year-old me could relate. The dude I was crushing on in school had floppy hair and a choker made of string, and I'm pretty sure he smoked cigarettes because he was always chewing gum. I doubt he knew anything about the Baroque period, but he was really good at hockey, so I figured I could count on him to be passionate about something. This "Foolish Games" video inspired countless goth yoga poses and Instagram posts. Pining for that bad boy? Fold yourself into an emo little pile, but for the love of dark and sexy—stay pretty.
Here we have Jewel #nailingit on hair and makeup. The messy updo, dewy skin, frosted lids and lips—any fashionable late-90s girl worth her weight in boiler-room blowjobs knew that these were the looks to strive for (and I'll say it again, Instagram would be a wasteland without the above pose tutorial. #thankyoufoolishgames).
This was an interesting thing. Dark Jewel versus Light Jewel. Misfit versus prom queen. What does it all mean?
Kind of creepy, goth Japanese girls were everywhere in the late 90s. Jewel was ahead of the curve, incorporating them into this video. Madonna would loot the trend later (see: the video for "Frozen" and most promotional appearances surrounding the release of Ray of Light). But what does it all mean?
After that, things kinda melt into a pool of pouting and drifting around wistfully like the bastard child of Angela Chase and The Crow, but hey, it's nice to look at. I know I co-opted the vibes on display every time I wore anything with a sheer layer. It was all so metaphoric of greater romantic angst—the whole notion of people thinking they can see through to your insides, but really you've got this impenetrable shell to protect you—even though, in real life, said impenetrable shell was made of highly-flammable synthetic material....
This shit is deep. It melded the vulnerability of Dawson's Creek with the dark-and-sexiness of Stevie Nicks, and before things like Evanescence eviscerated witch-style of any and all originality, "Foolish Games" let the average gal (yes, even YOU, Alaskan yodelers!) believe that black floral crowns and tastefully displayed skeletons could transform anyone into a beautiful, brooding lady in love.
Karen Ruttner is loving the 90s on Twitter.