For many of us, Norah Jones has been frozen in a moment in time since 2002. Come Away With Me not only launched her career in spectacular fashion but cast her as a middle of the road, soft jazz singer – an American Katie Melua if you like. No matter that subsequent albums saw her broaden her musical outlook and deal in darker subject matter, she was cursed by preconception. What all this means, though, is that recent developments have proved to be a pleasant surprise.
First there was her appearance on Danger Mouse’s Rome project, alongside Jack White, and now comes her fifth studio album – again produced by Brian Barton. The importance of his contribution is obvious, as Little Broken Hearts sounds utterly gorgeous, if shot through with a melancholic air. That element is unsurprising when you consider Jones’ lyrics, a heart rending account of a crumbling relationship. It’s brutally honest, detailing her partner’s infidelity and the bitterness she feels to the third party.
Those jazz stylings are largely gone, replaced by a Barton backdrop that suits the singer perfectly. It never really shifts into a top gear but the emotion and drama of the lyrics ensure that your attention never wanders. All, you feel, is missing is a truly killer song. That comes in the shape of ‘Miriam’, a spectacularly barbed attack on the other woman – “never been the killing kind but you know I know what you did so don’t put up a fight”. It stops you in your tracks, wondering how that sweet girl of ten years ago could muster such anger. Then you go back to listen to it all again and the answer is clear. Events may have caused her suffering but somewhere along the way Norah Jones has unlocked an artist of serious status. Let’s hope it was worth it.