Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones (Blue Note, 2012. 45 minutes)

Norah Jones (b. 1979) is the daughter of famous sitarist, Ravi Shankar. She launched her career in 2002 with the release of Come Away With Me, which won her five Grammy Awards, and sold over twenty million copies. She is listed as Billboard magazine’s 60th best selling artist and the top jazz artist of the 2000 decade.

Evolution


A lack of evolution is my main complaint of most musical artists. Take famed smooth jazz saxophonist, Kenny G., as an example. He has found a formula and exploited it for thousands of middle-aged housewives all around the country. His music has plagued elevators for at least a decade, and why? Because it works and makes money. What’s sad is Kenny G. is a legitimate jazz saxophonist with some amazing chops. 

Until Norah Jones’ last album, …Featuring , my complaint was exactly the same for her. It became evident that she was trying to leave the sultry, easy world she had created with her earlier albums. Now, with her newest release, Little Broken Hearts, Norah Jones is seemingly telling the world she will always be growing, challenging preconceived notions, and evolving as she sees fit. No longer do we have to hear her lightly sanded voice that became synonymous with her Come Away With Me release in 2003. The ballad friendly, unobtrusive sound is no more! I’m thankful to be freed of my previous expectations.

A New Sound and a Breakup


Jones hired Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) to produce Little Broken Hearts. He is also credited as a co-writer on a few tracks. Burton has worked on projects with Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, and The Black Keys. With that knowledge, you should already have a fairly good idea how this album plays out; it has funk roots, acoustic emphasis, intriguing guitar rhythms and captivating vocal melodies. 

The album comes from the aftermath of a breakup with musician Lee Alexander. Each song on the album signifies a different feeling one encounters during a break up. So, the listener receives a cinematic view of an ending relationship. You can hear the dark depravity of a breakup on the track “She’s 22”, where Jones asks repetitively over a dark and muted shuffle of an electric guitar,

“Does she make you happy?”



Say Goodbye


But, a dark track isn’t the only way Jones shares her breakup. If it was, the album wouldn’t be much of a departure from her past. In a listen to the track, “Say Goodbye”, you’ll immediately hear something different from “She’s 22”, starting with a simple groove, and a catchy hook.

“It’s alright, it’s okay / I don’t need you anyway. / You don’t have to tell the truth, cause if you do I’ll tell it too / Oh, I’ll tell it too. / Well, it ain’t easy to stay in love if you can’t tell lies, / So I’ll just have to take a bow / And say goodbye.”

Heartbreaking lyrics, certainly. But, what makes this song different is that immediately you are forced to tap your toes, listen intently, and enjoy. With an R&B beat, a gentle organ tremolo in the background, and a catchy guitar riff throughout, “Say Goodbye” certainly marks a departure for Jones. This song isn’t something you play in the background at a party; this tune is something you blare on your car radio.

Happy Pills


The antepenultimate track is perhaps my favorite of them all. Entitled “Happy Pills”, the song consists of a simple rock formula. Chunked guitar on eighth notes, snare hits on two and four, and a catchy guitar riff is a prescription for success. The tune almost sounds like The Black Keys just hired a new vocalist. The lyrics tie in with the rest of the songs on the album, but the vibe is different.

“Would you please just let me go now? Please just let me go”

No longer should you see Norah Jones as the demure girl who took home a ton of Grammy’s for her sultry performance on Come Away With Me. Jones has evolved into her next stage. Alternative Rock now graces her album, Little Broken Hearts, kindly assaulting our senses with a brand new, evocative sound. Rhythmically complex, melodically intricate, and lyrically thorough, this album is worth ignoring any preconceived notions you may have about Norah Jones.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

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