06/03/2003 at 12:00 AM EDT
Tuesday marks the release of Jewel's new album, "0304," featuring 14 tracks that play down her folk-pop roots in coffeehouses and put her out on the dance floor -- with an electronic sound pulsating with upbeat melodies, reports Billboard.
"I've always been considered a very serious artist," says Jewel (last name: Kilcher), 28. "This is my pop culture record. The world is complicated and hard, and people want to be able to lose themselves in the rhythm. People want to feel young and sexy and smart, and like things are okay -- including me. That is the only image I had writing these songs. This is a happy record."
Lester Mendez, a veteran of CDs by Shakira, Santana and Enrique Iglesias, was drafted by Jewel to collaborate on songwriting, arranging and producing her album, says the trade paper.
"I'd always thought electronic music was cold and pat and not very creative," she says. Yet the remix of "Serve the Ego" landed Jewel in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
"I found a way to use beats that suits me," she says. "Now, I see that it's like being a painter who says they will never use red or yellow. Why limit yourself that way?"
She adds: "I intend to work with Lester for the rest of my life. I can't tell you how powerful a musician he is."
The Utah native, who was raised in Alaska began writing songs when she was 17, continues to back a number of personal causes, notes Billboard.
These include the talent search Soul City Cafe, which awards its winners opening gigs on her (as-yet-unscheduled) next tour; and Higher Ground for Humanity, a foundation launched with her mother and manager, Lenedra Carroll.