April 9, 2015 by NowhereButPop
Expectations are sort of a shitty thing because they’re the combination of two already shitty things: entitlement and prophecy. If you expect something to happen, what you’re really doing is trying to predict the future based entirely on something that you want, or something that you think you’re entitled to, in short, you’re letting something that you want to happen dictate and occlude your vision of the future.
If Lebron never wins another championship, it would cast a pall over his legacy because the expectation was that he should have won more. He should have won more, because we wanted him to win more. We’re acting as prognosticators simply because we want to see a future where Lebron wins not one, not two, not three rings. If the Atlanta Hawks, the number 1 seed in the East, don’t win a title this year, no one would care because there were no expectations; no one really cared about them enough to actively envision a future filled with promise, therefore, no expectation was created.
Even in music, artists have to face the expectations that are thrust on them by fans, critics, and executives alike. In a sense, a musician’s future is pretty much dictated by their past body of work. What they did, and how it was received, is a barometer of what we think they should be doing. The best musicians, however, are the ones who defy expectations. Californication is great because no one expected it; the public jury reversed its verdict on Led Zeppelin III after they realized its importance, and Achtung Baby is lauded not only for what it is, but also because it’s not The Joshua Tree.
Whenever expectations are not met, controversy almost always ensues. Just ask Jewel. Her 2003 album 0304 caused quite an uproar amongst her devoted legion of folk fanatics. By 2003, there was this idea that Jewel was this folk heroine who constantly ignored the pop charts and the limelight. She had her chance back in the mid-90s, and the fact that she didn’t go pop endeared her even more to a fan base in need of a hero. Flash-forward to 2001, and an ever intuitive Jewel had begun to realize that the only thing left to do was to shatter the expectations that had been thrust on her. Her single “Serve the Ego” was the basis to her 2003 album 0304 which saw her immerse herself in a poppier and electronic sound. The expectation for Jewel was to not sell her soul to commercialism, and to be this folk icon who spurned the charts in favor of sincerity and modesty. What 0304 did, was give the middle finger to everyone told Jewel what she could and could not be.
At times, the only way to grow is by shattering the shackles of expectations brought on by somebody else. The lead single from 0304 “Intuition” is a song that satires the very notion of Jewel “selling out” by reneging on expectations that she never agreed to. The idea behind “Intuition” is that by following your heart, and your intuition, “it will lead you in the right direction”. The entire music video is plastered with mock product placement, gross overindulgence in celebrity endorsements, and a clear cut reminder of just how hot Jewel really is, with the idea being that your intuition will lead you “in the right direction”, to these superficial and meaningless pursuits. So on the one hand, the image that she was presenting, was a sexy, aesthetically pleasing one, while on the other hand she was actually mocking the superficial nature of the mainstream culture. Most people, however, took it at face value and believed that Jewel had actually turned over a new leaf.
The people who loved 0304 thought of it as a breath of fresh air, and that Jewel had finally let her hair down. What they didn’t realize is that Jewel was making a point about pop music and the dense plaque of vanity that surrounds it. Older fans of Jewel avoided 0304 like Syphilis and treated it with an equal amount of scorn and disdain. What they failed to take notice of, was that it was the same old Jewel rejecting the pop mainstream, only this time around she was manipulating it to her own machinations so that she could better prove her point.
“Intuition” was an ironic, tongue-in-cheek, self-referential, and preemptive response to the misconceived notion that she was selling out and abandoning her fans’ expectations. She knew that an album like 0304 would not be expected, and therefore much maligned and with the lead single, she sought to parody this preconceived idea that she was going mainstream. On the surface that’s exactly what it seemed like, but in actuality “Intuition” is mockery and a satire of commercialism. 0304 presented listeners with a new sound, but the message was still the same. Jewel tricked us all, and we all fell for it because we were blinded by our expectations of what we thought Jewel could and could not do. Jewel’s intuition didn’t falter, in fact it led her in the right direction.