That saying about a woman scorned? The one no one quotes correctly? Let’s just say it’s remarkable what it can do to an artist’s persona.
…Little Broken Hearts is Norah Jones like you’ve never heard her before. It’s a concept album about a woman processing her venomous feelings after a breakup, recorded (not surprisingly) at the end of a personal relationship. While going to some dark places emotionally, it’s a more uptempo sound than we’re used to hearing from her (which still isn’t saying a lot, coming from an artist nicknamed “Snorah” Jones)—but it’s more than just a matter of tempo. Perhaps a good description is that the album sounds more awake. There’s more diversity in the arrangements, from electronic drum/bass loops to vibey guitars, roomy reverb and AM-radio effects. Even Jones’ voice isn’t quite the same. The smokey, sleepy-jazz vocals have been replaced by a more emotional tone that displays a remarkable amount of range. On the chorus of “4 Broken Hearts,” for example, there was a power in Jones’ vocal tone that made me ask, Where has this girl come from?
Jones had a little help creating this new sonic experience, with electro-alternative songwriter/producer Danger Mouse at the production helm and sharing writing credits. (For some of you, the above description of the album’s sound suddenly makes perfect sense.) His rich, layered approach to …Little Broken Hearts creates exactly the atmosphere that Jones needed to pull this off and make it sound legitimate.
As for the songs themselves…wow. Any guy who listens to this record is going to be glad he’s not that guy (except, maybe, for that guy). These aren’t your typical Taylor Swift-esque you-broke-up-with-me-now-I’m-gonna-write-a-song-to-spite-you kind of songs. The anguish, regret, jealousy, and bloodthirst—it’s all there, in your face, and very, very real. “She’s 22” shows Jones’ mournful side, ending with the ironic lyric, “Does she make you happy / I wanna see you happy.” On the other side of the spectrum, the song “Miriam,” (presumably targeting the “other woman”) feels just plain creepy, making every girl glad she’s not that girl (except, maybe, for…you get the idea).
There’s a bittersweetness in the realization that such an apparently painful personal experience has caused Norah Jones to put out what very well may be the record of her career. Then again, it seems to be universally true that some of the best art comes out of pain. …Little Broken Hearts is the record Norah Jones needed to make, both for herself and for her career.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 Stars (out of five)