Norah Jones: Little Broken Hearts

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Norah Jones is not an extreme artist. When you pick up one of her albums, you know what to expect. There will be no genre-hopping madness, hardly any experimentation and certainly none of that dubstep hullabaloo. For more than 10 years now, Jones has carved out a comfortable niche as the lovable, loungy songstress that first soothed listeners’ ears with her hit single “Don’t Know Why” in 2002. Alongside veterans like Madeleine Peyroux and Diana Krall, Norah Jones has always seamlessly spun tales of tranquil romance with her breathy melodies and velvety piano. But with her latest album, Little Broken Hearts, she shatters this image. Sort of.

From the packaging to the production, everything appears different with Jones’ fifth studio album. In vivid hues of red, black and yellow, she vamps up her image on the cover with a sexy pout — a direct homage to the ’60s sexploitation film “Mudhoney.” In bold black letters that scrawl across the bottom, the words “produced by Danger Mouse” highlight the extent of Jones’ musical departure. Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) is, after all, a curious choice being half of illustrious duo Gnarls Barkley and a prominent hip hop/alternative producer in his own right.

You can hear his influence clearly in the buoyant beats of tracks like “Happy Pills” or the electronic ambience that starts off “After the Fall.” However, despite all the ornate dressings, Jones remains the same whispering singer-songwriter we saw debut in the early 2000s. This is not to say the album is lackluster. Far from it. Songs like the wistful “Miriam” or the darker, rawer title track all have the ingredients for an edgier sound — i.e. lingering guitar, embittered emotions and a powerful crescendo. Yet Little Broken Hearts, for all its ambitions, never breaks new ground.