Is The New Norah Jones CD "Little Broken Hearts" THE SHIT or Just Shit?

In 2002, Norah Jones went from unknown musician/daughter of Ravi Shankar to worldwide sensation on the success of the runaway single "Don't Know Why". Oddly enough, the single itself only charted at #30, but it would seem that every soul who heard and liked the song went out and bought the entire album from whence it came. Thus, her debut full-length "Come Away With Me" would go on to sell over 10 million copies in the US alone.

Not bad for a "jazz singer".

Of course, when you hit such heights the first time out, expectations are bound to be raised. Add to that equation an artist who feels undeserving of the massive popularity, as she has stated in numerous interviews, and you are bound for a letdown.

Thus, while her subsequent albums "Feels Like Home" and "Not Too Late" debuted at #1, but quickly fell from the higher reaches of the Billboard charts. Anyone frequenting used CD stores also saw that many of those who bought these follow-up efforts hoping for something to match the musical euphoria of her debut were quick to unload them.

To our ears, it sounded like Jones had become a prisoner of surprise success that locked her into a sound that she hadn't been entirely convinced was her sound to begin with and each subsequent album seemed to reveal an artist bored by the colors on her palette.

We couldn't help think that the EMI juggernaut that had fully embraced her when "Don't Know Why" became an anthem of the wine and cheese crowd now couldn't quite figure out what to do with Jones' declining sales figures.

With 2010's "...Featuring", Norah was positioned as a bit of a coattail rider on her own album, with a list of collaborators such as Ryan Adams, Foo Fighters, and Belle & Sebastian hoping to pull her back to the top of the charts. While 2009's aptly-named "The Fall" would be her first album to not reach #1, "...Featuring" made it only as far as #29.

And thus was the last we'd heard from our dear Norah.

With the release of "...Little Broken Hearts", Norah Jones finally seems comfortable in her own musical skin, having hit upon a sonic landscape that suits her and plays beautifully into her natural talents. You still have the faux-jazz leanings that are part and parcel of her early success, but producer Danger Mouse's genius isn't in his ability to create hip sounds as much as create an album that sounds like a cohesive song cycle instead of twelve or so desperate attempts to score a hit. This is the album of an artist who seems perfectly confident and in full command of her talents, which is quite the accomplishment for both Jones and Danger Mouse.

While it was no doubt some exec at EMI who thought "Hey, let's get Danger Mouse to produce the next record", thinking Danger Mouse's cred and popularity would help shift some units, the move was actually the perfect one at this stage in Jones' career.

On "4 Broken Hearts" and "Travelin' On", it's obvious Jones is dealing with the fallout of a break up. While a break-up album can be an emotion-filled listen, from a career standpoint, they can make or break an artist. Get too bogged down in the heartbreak & vitriol and you end sounding like a bitter whiner, expose just enough of your heart and marry the darker lyrics to upbeat musical landscapes and you just might sneak a song like "Happy Pills" into heavy rotation on radio formats.

It's an odd thing to be driving around listening to the radio, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel while Norah repeats the refrain, "Please just let me go". Can you imagine being the guy whose face Norah Jones never wants to see again...so much so that she wrote this song?

Those who don't dig that deep will still find a lot to like about the song because the jaunty tempo and cotton candy confection make for a tasty musical treat no matter what she's singing.

And therein lies the beauty of this record. I would have never thought I'd be raving about a Norha Jones album again, but this is a record that will put her back on top for good.

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