Jewel, Tracy Chapman And The Art Of Faking Authenticity


Authenticity is important to me.

Mardi Gras, 1996, my best friend Henry Michel, took me to a party. It was held in one of the upstairs apartments right on Bourbon Street.

The place was packed and it didn’t take long for me to lose Hank. It was one of his private school friend’s party so I didn’t really know anybody. But if you have ever been to Mardi Gras, you know that doesn’t matter.

So I’m checking out all the people in their costumes when this chick comes over wearing a Belly Dancer’s outfit. She literally asked me to buy her a drink. I told her the drinks were free and soon we were dancing to whatever music the D.J. was playing.

Finally a sofa opened up and we sat down. Since my friends and I had not yet figured out the art of getting laid, I was surprised and happy to see that she was not mad when I, in an 18-year-old-trying-to-be-casual-way, put my arms around her shoulders.

I thought she really had had too much to drink because a few minutes later, despite (or because of) the debauchery going on around us we started making out on the sofa.

Then I heard a voice in my ear. 

“We have to leave.”

It was my friend Hank. I ignored him. He then got between me and my belly dancing goddess and said, “Tell your friend that we have to leave.”

I could see he was insistent. I was confused and angrily asked why.

“Because that girl is really a guy.”

It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I just stared at her/him. 

“You’re a dude?!?” I muttered bewilderly.

She batted her eyelashes and said, “Now what’s a little something like that between friends?”

Needless to say, since then I’ve been a stickler for authenticity.

Even before “keeping it real” became part of the lexicon I would get pissed off with small things. Like breakfast cereal which taste like a different breakfast food. It creeps me out.

Everyone nowadays claim to want the authentic.

But the authentic can be faked.


Take for example the two singers Jewel and Tracy Chapman.

When both of their records were released to the public they were pushed as folk singers.

Both were singing about the hardships of modern life.

Since I’m an authenticity junky, hearing one of these singers would always piss me off because she was discovered at the highfolutin’ Tuft University by her classmate who’s dad happened to be Charles Koppelman, who, at the time, ran SBK Publishing, one of the most powerful companies in the music business. (Charles is now the Vice Chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc)

The other chick, Jewel, who no one really respects as an authentic folksinger, was actually living her van when an A&R guy put in her tape by accident looking for something else.

Now why is Tracy Chapman considered authentic while Jewel is considered in some circles (despite putting out 2 books of poetry and decent songs) a joke?

Because Authenticity is based on Consistency.


If you’re going to build “a network based on quality writers”. Then you better always give us quality writers.

If you claim to be “The source for blog related news”, then you better always be the source and not start talking about the state of videogames.

We, the people, expect you to lie.

We know that almost everyone is full of shit and is just after our dollars.

That’s why we are more willing to give our money to someone who is ‘consistent’ bad than someone who may or may not be good.

There’s some truth and authenticity in “consistent” anything.

Jewel’s music was pushed to pop, adult, and now country radio. No fan knows who she is trying to attract so it doesn’t matter how good the songs are she can never have a steady base.

Tracy Chapman has been singing the same lie from the beginning and people like that. She’s consistent. Which makes her authentic.

Once you decide who and what your network stands for, stick with it. No matter what. It’ll give you a leg up on the competition.

And what’s a little something like that between friends?




[today is the last day of mardi gras. please keep the people of new orleans in your hearts and minds]


Explore posts in the same categories: advertising, Army Of One, blog networks, branding, cursing, Jewel, New Orleans, personal, Tracy Chapman

14 Comments on “Jewel, Tracy Chapman And The Art Of Faking Authenticity”

  1. Larson Says:

    Makes me think of U2 in the 90’s… Zoo TV, etc., their most artistically fertile period by a mile.

    They put up the greatest live rock show ever, certainly sold a bunch of tickets, but was also the most hated period by the listening public in general. I think I remember reading several “inauthenticity” claims in the music mags.

    The bigger, better and more consistent lie…

    My question. How do you account for growth in all of this? Most folks (no matter your business) can’t put up a “Zoo TV” from the get go… it took U2 15 years to get there and, you’re right, didn’t fully work because most fans wanted more Joshua Tree.

    Are we stuck with the general vision that we start with?

  2. Angela Says:

    Saying that Tracy Chapman is ‘a lie’ is a lie.
    She did not grow up rich but went to Tufts on a scholarship. To compare her to Jewel is not fair. Jewel is a pop tart while Tracy, on the otherhand is an artist of substance.

  3. chartreuse Says:

    Being consistent means (to me) that you have to keep the core of whatever you are doing true.

    For example, Madonna has been able to jump all over the map with her image because the core of her image was always outrageousness, ‘what is she going to do next?’. That gave her the liberty to actually do anything. And if you are a madonna fan you go along with it because you know that is who she is.

    Owning a network, or any product, you have to define who you are in the beginning. You do that with language, design, content, etc.

    Then once you get your true believers, you nurture them. Treat them like gold and give them the tools to market your product. Your job is to facilitate and to keep to your core values.

    I was one of those folks who loved the ZOOtv era of U2. But I was a true beleiver who got in early. The Joshua Tree fans (the point where the 13yo white girls came in) are a whole different breed. You gotta ignore them because they will almost always take you away from your core. It’s tempting to follow them but NEVER DO IT.

    What you are seeing with Google (IMHO) is an effort to please the ’13yo white girls’ of the internet. Those folks who bought in late and are just following what they think is now cool.

    This is much too long and in no way answered your question. I’m sorry about that.

    I could tell you about how Koppelman used the ‘art of getting laid’ strategy to make Tracy popular with upscale college kids and tell you the story of the private school she went to for high school at but I can’t argue with fans. That would be the day Chartruese (Beta) would have officially ‘jumped the shark.’

  4. Matt Says:

    Careful now, my wife is a PhD graduate from Tufts 🙂

  5. Liz Strauss Says:

    Please know I understand the irony of what I’m about to say, though most folks I said it to never did hear it. When I was training new editors in publishing

    I would often tell them it is better to be consistently wrong than inconsistently right.

    You can convince someone that any word has an alternate spelling if you consistently misspell it throughout an entire book–they unconsciously will begin to agree with you.

    I’m totally with you on this one. 🙂

  6. chartreuse Says:

    I have no problem with Tufts. Good school…consistently good. 🙂

    And as usual Liz, you get it.

  7. DudeAsInCool Says:

    Jewel was discovered by manager Inga Vainshtein on a tip from some friends in San Diego. Inga took me to see Jewel in a club long before she became famous. You’re right about ‘authenticity’ – but not about the A & R guy. Nice site, btw.

  8. You are as cool as the DUDE

  9. beverley Says:

    looking for information and found it at this great site.

  10. Stefan Says:

    Tracy Chapman is a fantastic musican and a singer/songwriter of the highest quality.

    Jewel covered a Tracy song “Behind The Wall” therefore Jewel has respect for Tracy, you should too!

    She is as authentic as they come!
    Check out my website!


  11. […] To aid in the trip I am sending the travellers a list of places and homes NOT to stop by. The list includes the homes of ex-wives, ex-girlfriends and a certain boy I accidentally kissed during Mardi Gras 1996 (not that there is anything wrong with that!). […]

  12. JoyceBuckley Says:

    I’m so sorry you don’t understand Tracy chapman, her lyrics are very deep and
    most shallow people “DON’T” understand them.


  13. Dayfydd Says:

    There’s a lot of commercial common sense in what you say… but at the end of the day, what determines what you buy is what you like; what you like is probably the most complicated and convoluted issue on the planet.

  14. Dayfydd Says:

    I think chartreuse may be gettin a little over the top… Jewel has been trying a few different genres, but they’re all from a base she knows about. From the cowgirl beginnings, to livin on the streets, back full circle to matin up to a real cowboy… she’s lived it.
    And besides, look at Mr Ray Charles; he wandered all over by some peeps accounts, but was it good music? Was he a fake?
    If you feel it, don’t be afraid to tell it… I guess it really does boil down to being true to yourself; do you really do it for just the money or not?

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