Pleasant, But Too Trite

Courtesy of Blue Note Records

Ever since her 2002 hit single “Don’t Know Why” first graced radio airwaves, singer-songwriter Norah Jones has had an illustrious music career. Known for her signature sweet vocals and melodic multi-genre tunes, Jones sings sweetly of the well-known themes of amorous nostalgia, break-ups and moving on in her new release, “Little Broken Hearts.”

In the first track, “Good Morning,” the music sounds uplifting and gentle, with a repetitive arpeggio sequence and twinkling accent notes; it wasn’t hard for me to imagine a sunrise during the quiet hours of dawn. However, the song conveys heartache, with Jones singing lyrics like “I knew you were gone / Our loving is all I was after / But you couldn’t give it / So I’m moving on.” Perhaps there could be some wordplay with “morning” for “mourning” in this first track of the album. As Jones mentioned in a commentary, this song “sounds like a beginning, but once it unfolds, it sounds like an ending.”

“Say Goodbye” and “Little Broken Hearts” add the “oomph” that the first track builds upon. “Say Goodbye” has a TV commercial-friendly tune, although the song talks about finally calling it quits in a relationship that was already rocky from the start. While maintaining an upbeat energy, Jones’ sweet vocals turn sultry in “Little Broken Hearts.” With lyrics like “Did the darkness of their days / Make them let go of their light? / Will they want to find a way / To make it all right?” her voice sounds hungry for vengeance, a musical trait not commonly associated with Jones.

Although the broken heart theme of Jones’ latest album remains consistent throughout, the musical dynamics of the tracks in the middle of the album switch from eerie to intimate like in “She’s 22,” where it’s just Jones crooning with her acoustic guitar; or progressive and powerful in “Take It Back,” wherein more instruments, tempo changes, effects and back-up vocals are added into the mix before finally breaking off with the echo of a sustained chord from an electric guitar.

The chiming harpsichord-like sound of chords from the organ perfectly complements the deep melancholy swoons of the cello in “Travelin’ On.” Possibly about drifting apart, listeners can feel that growing distance as Jones “howls” gently and sings lyrics like, “If you notice that I’m falling behind / I’m taking my time / Taking it all in / So call me when you get where you’re going / I’ll keep travelin’ on / Travelin’ to you.” I found this to be a standout track with its different instrumentation and Jones’ forlorn, heartfelt delivery of the lyrics.

Immediately after is “Out On The Road,” which takes a complete turnaround in terms of mood and style. This track is quite reminiscent of older Norah Jones albums, with its country-esque, poppy tune with Jones’ familiar airy melodious vocals.

“Happy Pills” is probably the most radio-friendly tune. With its catchy guitar riffs, dance-inducing pop sound and cliché empowering lyrics, you can’t help singing along to: “With you gone, I’m alive / Makes me feel like I took happy pills / And time stood still … Never said we’d be friends / Trying to keep myself away from you / ‘Cause you’re bad, bad news.” It’s not the most creative piece of music ever, but the tune definitely gets stuck in my head.

Although I appreciate Norah Jones’ music, I wasn’t completely thrilled with her latest release. Content-wise, crooning about the complexities of love is nothing groundbreaking. It’s been done a million times, literally. The lyrics, although well delivered by Jones’ vocals, became trite. But musically, the more closely I listened to each song, the more I realized each track’s intricacy, making Jones’ latest installment musically richer than previous albums.

“Little Broken Hearts” is a musically solid album that’s evident of Jones experimenting with different styles. Maybe if the lyrics were a little more creative, I would listen to this album a little more whole-heartedly.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5