Archive for the ‘Norah Jones’ tag
It’s always a little bit heartbreaking when artists who are beloved for a specific sound or style start to diverge wildly from that path. It very rarely works, and more often than not, produces disastrous results. Remember when Liz Phair was a 90s alt-rock goddess but decided to morph into a sugary-sweet pop singer at the turn of the millennium, shattering the hopes and dreams of the women who had once worshipped her? Jewel pulled the same move, too. There’s a word for it, and we all know what it is, even if it sort of makes us cringe: it’s called becoming a “sell-out.” But what’s the opposite of selling out? Because on her new album, Little Broken Hearts, Norah Jones has gone from mainstream piano princess to sultry songstress of cool. The more atmospheric, far chillier LP is definitely an upgrade. Let’s call it “selling up.”
A lot of people act like retro crooner Adele is the second-coming, but they’re probably forgetting that Norah Jones did all of the same things, and she was first. When she burst onto the pop music scene in 2002 with her debut, Come Away With Me, Norah won a shit-load of Grammys and became an instant mainstream smash. And even if easy-listening, bluesy piano james weren’t quite your thing, it was hard to deny the raw appeal of Norah’s smooth, lush voice, her fresh, natural looks, and her clear talent. On the cover of Little Broken Hearts, however, that girl is nowhere to be found. In her place is a choppy-haired vixen with a piercing gaze whose bold, red lips are practically screaming out at us that she’s a whole new woman. And she is. On the album, on which she wisely enlisted the help of Danger Mouse, guitars are favored over the piano, Jones’s signature instrument. It’s different, but even though she’s wielding a brand new bag of tricks, she hasn’t lost what made her so good in the first place.
We discuss Ms. Norah Jones and the implications of her latest release, “…Featuring”:
Ian: Norah Jones: Beauty. Great folky songwriter. Now working with the Foo Fighters.
I can see why she’s popular, but why is she so popular?
James: 1) She’s pretty, and 2) biracial, 3) on that note, she’s also Ravi Shankar’s daughter. Yeah, yeah, I know your mom raised you, and you’re grateful to her, and your dad wasn’t there…but Ravi Shankar. He’s “only” the greatest known sitarist in world history.
Anyway, 4) She also plays a nice piano, and more importantly 5) has mass appeal. By “mass appeal,” I mean toes the boundary between “legitimately engrossing jazz” and “easy listening” dangerously.
Ian: hmm, very true. “…Featuring” has me a little worried, honestly. On it, she collabs with everyone from Outkast to Belle and Sebastian.
James: Why not make an album with outkast AND an album with B&S Is it really necessary to combine them into one oevre? Not everyone can be Janelle Monae – or needs to be.
Ian: It’s like she’s putting her fingers into all flavors of pies.
James: Ok, more specifically, who do you prefer 1) musically and 2) visually (encompassing style, “look,” attractiveness, showmanship)
Ian: Monae, her and Big Boi are like | |.
James: Yes, they have the mind-meld going on – for better, not for worse. Which is better than i can say for big boi and the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink crew he threw together for sir lucious leftfoot. Janelle, at least, had the sense to keep the number of executive producers down on her last album. I mean, I like big boi…but I don’t think he deserved the great praise he received for his last album. For me, it was hit-and-miss. I agree with you about Janelle, btw. Both musically and stylistically.
Back to Norah, though. I think she may be biting off more than she can chew. Who knows, though? If you had said one of the best albums of 2010 would be an album that features tastes of Stevie Wonder, OutKast, David Bowie, and the soundtrack to James Bond movies circa 1965, I would have said you’re full of shit but Janelle made the ArchAndroid, and there it was. So, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt until I hear it. She’s not without talent.
Ian: That’s the thing about Janelle, tho: She’s very adaptive. “…Featuring” just doesn’t make Norah’s talent seem multifaceted. All the co-acts, like Outkast, are conforming to Norah’s cool, downtempo style.
She’s not tapping into them as much as they into her. Which, hey, maybe that doesn’t matter for most.
James: or, all of them into each other
which i think is ideal in these types of circumstances
Ian: I think I just wanted to hear her start spittin’ or raging.
And that doesn’t happen, for better or worse.
James: Well, it couldn’t have hurt to try. Or, who knows, maybe she knows her limitations. That’s the problem with Norah, though i feel like her solo albums have gotten a bit indistinguishable from each other. And I WANT her to break out a few tendrils in other directions, that may be too much to hope for.
At least she’s not Britney Spears.
Ian: Let’s just hope they drop anything together – would be a shame to let Britney’s loco rub off on Norah.