Norah Jones gets edgier with Little Broken Hearts album

Apr 30, 2012

Jones leaves easy listening jazz behind for sexy, sophisticated break-up songs

2011 Getty Images

What you need to know 
Little Broken Hearts is the new album by US jazz pop singer-songwriter Norah Jones. Jones swept the Grammys with her 2001 debut album, Come Away With Me. The album sold over 20 million copies. Jones was listed as Billboard magazine's 60th-best-selling music artist of 2000–2009.

Her latest album is produced and arranged by Brian Burton, also known as Danger Mouse, and renowned for his work with The Black Keys and Beck.

Jones's early musical style has been called "middle of the road", but since her debut album she has experimented with jazz, country and even spaghetti western film themes. Her current album features songs about a relationship break-up with distorted vocals and electronic embellishments.

What the critics like
Norah Jones has made a sneaky transition from dinner party backdrop to David Lynch soundtrack with Little Broken Hearts, says Helen Brown in The Daily Telegraph. It contains "a series of moody, American break-up grooves which wear their pretty melodies at unsettling angles". There's a reflective intelligence in her songs, as she works through emotions "at a graceful, dreamy pace".

Jones is at her best when conveying a sultry form of heartbreak, says Will Hodgkinson in The Times, because the timbre of her voice, "smoky, but sweet", lends itself to this style. Songs like Good Morning convey sophisticated sexiness and when Jones relaxes and slips into something comfortable, as in Miriam, she displays her complexities, showing "middle of the road can be an exciting place".

Little Broken Hearts explores the concept of heartbreak, investigating its unpleasant aspects with refreshing candour and sardonic wit, says Marcus J. Moore on the BBC. Jones sounds playfully detached from said relationship and therein lays the success of Little Broken Hearts. "Heartbreak is inevitable if you love hard enough, yet Jones and Burton make it enjoyable."

What they don't like
Norah Jones wants to be your crazy ex-girlfriend, says Entertainment Weekly. Sadly, she's not that kind of girl. She'd rather pop a few pills and go back to bed. The passive, downbeat vibe of this album "sometimes just feels like a drag". Many of the songs find Jones gazing longingly at old photographs "while the music drifts by hazily in the background".

At times she seems to be pushing herself "into places she doesn't belong", says Hodgkinson in The Times. There are songs here that are "better suited to a straightforward popstar", or the undemanding country-pop of Taylor Swift.

Mojo calls it simply "an intriguing partnership that fails to entirely live up to expectations".

Little Broken Hearts is released this week. Norah Jones plays the Royal Festival Hall on June 1 and 2

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