Hands (Jewel song)

"Hands" is a song by American singer Jewel, released as the first single from her second studio album, Spirit (1998). Jewel wrote the song following an incident in which she considered stealing a sundress after getting fired from various jobs due to kidney troubles, and she decided that her hands were better suited to writing songs than stealing clothes. Written as one of the last songs for the album, the lyrics express how the smallest decisions have the power to make change. A piano-driven ballad, the song was serviced to American radio stations on October 16, 1998.

Single by Jewel
from the album Spirit
  • "Innocence Maintained"
  • "Enter from the East" (acoustic)
ReleasedOctober 16, 1998 (1998-10-16)[1]
StudioGroove Masters (Santa Monica, California, US)
  • 3:54 (album version)
  • 3:47 (radio edit)
Lyricist(s)Jewel Kilcher
Producer(s)Patrick Leonard
Jewel singles chronology
"Morning Song"
"Down So Long"
Music video
"Hands" on YouTube

No commercial single was issued in the United States, and the singles that were issued internationally received the album version. The radio edit can be found only on promos for the single. Even without a physical release, the song reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video peaked atop VH1's Top 20 Countdown.[2] It also reached number one in Canada for one week and peaked within the top 30 in Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. A "Christmas version" of the song appears on Joy: A Holiday Collection.


In 2002, Jewel elaborated on the song's origin. Before she wrote "Hands", she experienced kidney troubles that prevented her from working, and as a result, she was fired from several successive jobs, sending her into poverty. She began to shoplift food but worried she would begin to steal more expensive items. One day, she noticed a sundress in a shop window and went inside to try it on, planning to steal it. However, when she noticed the price tag, she decided against it. She explained:

"I had the price tag in my hand and it was one of those moments in my life, like a lightening bolt struck me, it was $39.99 and I thought 'when did I lose faith in myself? When did I start thinking that I can't earn $40 for myself?'"[3]

Jewel quickly left the store, leaving the dress behind, and began to write "Hands" soon afterwards, referring to her own hands that would function better writing songs than stealing dresses. It was one of the final tracks written and recorded for Spirit.[4] The central lyrics that developed into the complete song were, "If you watch what your hands are doing, you can see where your life is going to go."[3]

Composition and lyricsEdit

Ilana Kaplan of The New York Times has been described "Hands" as a ballad.[5] The album version is three minutes and fifty-four seconds long while the radio edit is three minutes and forty-seven seconds.[6][7] According to the digital sheet music published at Musicnotes, the song is written in cut time (2
) in the key of F minor with a moderate tempo of 68 beats per minute.[8]

The lyrics of "Hands" say that all people have the power to make their own decisions and change their lives for the better as long as they keep watch on what their hands are doing.[3] It is also about how the smallest actions can cause a difference. Jewel explained, "I knew if I could tell the world, my hands are so little, how can they have impact on the world? They seem like tiny little weapons. I can't fight with despair, thoughtlessness. They're not the solution, but they are the first step forward."[4]

Critical receptionEdit

Chuck Taylor of Billboard noted how Jewel's lyrics were "less girlish" and "creamier and more robust" than her debut efforts on "Hands" and called the track "one hell of a new single".[9] Music Week named it the "Single of the Week" on their October 24, 1998, issue, describing the song as "delicious" and its chorus as "moving".[10] Conversely, AllMusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine referred to the song's lyrics as "startlingly naive".[6]

Music videoEdit

The video, directed by Nick Brandt,[1] begins with Jewel driving along on a rainy night when she comes across emergency workers responding to a collapsed apartment building. She gets out of her car and stands with the crowd looking at the rubble and notices other onlookers walking away in horror and hopelessness. She follows others into the rubble and helps dig through the rubble for survivors, finding a man, alive, under the rubble and later three young children trapped inside a room. Throughout the whole video, she remains calm and collected, full of hope, as chaos ensues around her.

The video was filmed at the Promenade apartment complex in West Covina, California on October 11 and 12, 1998.[1] The apartments were vacant at the time of the filming of the video.

September 11 remixEdit

Right after the September 11 attacks, a DJ remixed the song which was carried on stations across the country. Jewel was in the mountains with her longtime boyfriend, Ty Murray, during the attack, and she first heard this version on the radio a few days later—it was one of the first things she heard. She spoke of this experience at a Borders concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan prior to the release of Perfectly Clear. Jewel appeared on Late Show with David Letterman one week after the incident, on September 18, 2001, and performed this song instead of the previously scheduled "Standing Still."

Track listingsEdit

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits are adapted from the Spirit booklet, the US promo CD liner notes, and the German CD single liner notes.[15][11][7]



Charts and certificationsEdit


  1. ^ a b c Taylor, Chuck (October 17, 1998). "Jewel Refines Her Musical 'Spirit'" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 110 no. 42. p. 21. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  2. ^ "Video Monitor" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 111 no. 4. January 23, 1999. p. 94. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Aisasami (February 23, 2020). "Jewel's "Hands" Makes Us Ponder About THIS Critical Part of Life". ailovemusic.net. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Chuck (January 23, 1999). "Spiritually Minded Jewel Introduces New Body of Work with Wide-Reaching 'Hands'" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 111 no. 4. p. 72. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  5. ^ Kaplan, Ilana (October 4, 2020). "Jewel Wants You to Be Present". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2020 – via The Baltimore Sun.
  6. ^ a b "Jewel – Spirit". AllMusic. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Hands (German CD single liner notes). Jewel. Atlantic Records. 1998. 7567-84415-9.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  8. ^ "Hands by Jewel – Digital Sheet Music". Musicnotes. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  9. ^ Taylor, Chuck (October 24, 1998). "Reviews & Previews – Singles" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 110 no. 43. p. 22. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  10. ^ "Reviews – Single of the Week" (PDF). Music Week. October 24, 1998. p. 12. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Hands (US promo CD liner notes). Jewel. Atlantic Records. 1998. PRCD 8703.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  12. ^ Hands (UK & European CD single liner notes). Jewel. Atlantic Records. 1998. AT0055CD, 7567-84404-2.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  13. ^ a b "Australian-charts.com – Jewel – Hands". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  14. ^ Hands (UK CD2 single liner notes). Jewel. Atlantic Records. 1998. AT0055CD2, 7567-84419-9.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  15. ^ Spirit (US HDCD album booklet). Jewel. Atlantic Records. 1998. 82950-2.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 7466." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 6993." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  18. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 15 no. 48. November 28, 1998. p. 13. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  19. ^ "Lescharts.com – Jewel – Hands" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 48, 1998" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  21. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Jewel – Hands" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  22. ^ "Charts.nz – Jewel – Hands". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  23. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  24. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  25. ^ "Jewel Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  26. ^ "Jewel Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  27. ^ "Jewel Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  28. ^ "Jewel Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  29. ^ "Jewel Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  30. ^ "RPM's Top 100 Adult Contemporary Tracks of '98". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  31. ^ "RPM 1999 Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  32. ^ "RPM 1999 Top 100 Adult Contemporary". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  33. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1999". Retrieved August 28, 2010.
  34. ^ "1999 – The Year in Music" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 111 no. 52. December 25, 1999. p. 148. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  35. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1999 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on August 30, 2020. Retrieved March 29, 2019.