Little Broken Hearts: my thoughts on Norah Jones’ new album

norah jones album cover

Ok, so the truth is: I’m currently in the midst of a Major Obsessive Episode involving  Norah Jones.

Don’t worry- this has happened before, I know what to do.

My obsession was rekindled before I had heard a single note or lyric from this new album. As soon as I saw the cover art of  Little Broken Hearts I knew this was the one I had been waiting for. I knew all along that she had it in her!!!  I adore and treasure her previous albums, but this one is different- it has more sass and moxy to it. And anytime she releases something new I break out my ‘old’ Norah Jones CDs and mp3s and start listening to them again- hence my current obsession.

Most of the critics’ ratings I’ve seen gave the album only 3.5 out of 5 stars, but they do give her credit for stepping outside of her previous box/comfort zone. The 4 previous albums had a sound and style that was fairly consistent from the first to the last. Mellow. Mature. Timeless. Soft Jazz, The Blues, and sometimes a little bit of what I refer to as “old-fashioned country.” (But her last album, The Fall, did have more of a pop influence than the others.) Norah’s music is unlike any other music that I’m in to or have ever been in to. I love it. I love the way it makes me feel when I listen to it- it’s an escape.

I have long adored her voice, as well as the music and lyrics of her albums, but I have also always wished for her to do something with a little more edge to it. And Little Broken Hearts is it- it’s what I’ve been waiting for, and it did not disappoint! It was worth the wait. This is Norah’s Jagged Little Pill, her Stripped, her Misunderstood, her Tragic Kingdom! And just like those albums, Little Broken Hearts is a very personal album. It tells a story and is very relatable. It will probably reach beyond her regular fan base. It being such a personal album is part of why I think it’s brilliant. That and 2 other elements: pain and Danger Mouse.
After all, what’s a story without a little pain and Danger?
(Side note: the other 4 albums I mentioned above were also pain-inspired.)

The Pain:
Norah herself said in an interview that she had always heard that going through “some shit” made for better song writing, but she had always found that to be a bit cliche. However, this has clearly turned out to be true for her.

broken heart

The title of the album makes it pretty clear what it’s about, but put that aside and the lyrics and vocals leave no doubt that Norah’s heart was broken. I’d wager that most of the lyrics were written either during the ordeal or soon there after. The pain seems so fresh in many of the songs, but even without the lyrics or vocals the music itself sounds heartbroken, the music is crying. It just sounds so sad, like the type of lingering pain and  sadness that are so specific to a badly broken heart.  Most of the album has a “haunted” sound to it. I was thinking this even before I read the critics’ reviews- many of them said the same thing. The words ‘dark’ and ‘hypnotizing’ also come to mind.
Bits and pieces of this album will linger in your mind similar to the way painful memories do. Norah’s vocals are beautiful (as usual), and sometimes she even sounds like a ghost. It is indeed a dark album, but it’s pretty too- like black glitter.

The Danger:
Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, is a music genuis. He’s a musician, DJ, songwriter, composer, music producer, etc. He’s worked with many, many different musicians and music artisits in the U.S., the U.K., and Europe. He and CeeLo Green formed the award- winning duo, Gnarles Barkley, but he is not bound within one genre- he’s all over the place, and he likes to combine different music genres together. For example, his album titled The Grey Album is a-capella chunks and snippets from Jay-Z’s Black Album mixed with samples from The Beatles’ White Album. ~Can I getta what-what!~ BRILLIANT!

the grey album
In 2011 he released Rome, an album of his creative vision and genius production. It was co-written and composed by him, Jack White, and Italian composer Daniele Luppi. It features lead vocals by Jack White and Norah Jones, and a group of old Italian musicians providing the instrumentals. (WOW! BRILLIANT!) This is how Danger Mouse and Norah Jones met.

ROME album cover


When Norah knew she wanted to start working on an album, she knew she wanted to work with him.

To be honest, I haven’t actually listened to either of Danger Mouse’s above mentioned albums, except one or 2 songs from Rome, but even just the idea of them gets me excited and gives me something to look forward to. I discovered these albums by accident when I was doing “research” on Little Broken Hearts. I saw that it was produced by Danger Mouse, and I was like- Danger Mouse? Who’s that? Sounded interesting. So I investigated. So glad I did! Now I have 2 new albums to look forward to once I am released from the spell cast by Little Broken Hearts. 

However, this is just my take on it. I do not claim or pretend to be a music critic whatsoever, but I do thoroughly enjoy creative, inspiring music, and I love this album. I’m so excited that it reveals a different side of Norah Jones. It’s only natural that I would want to pass my enthusiasm on to others.

Thank you. : )

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