Norah Jones, "Little Broken Hearts" (Blue Note)
Norah Jones is rich, beautiful and has one of the most gorgeous voices in popular music. None of that makes her immune to a broken heart.
Sad for her, good for us. Jones channeled her hurt into a collaboration with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton with 12 reflections on love gone wrong.
It's no pick-me-up, obviously. But Jones does more than wallow. She's angry, defiant, wounded, all-too-willing to slip back into a bad thing and even entertains a murder fantasy — in short, the full range of emotions that anyone feels when a serious relationship ends.
In the catchy "She's 22," Jones imagines her ex's life with a new lover, ending with "I'd like to see you happy." Falser words were never spoken. On "Out On the Road," she steps out with determination and a half tank of gas, only to hear a ghostly voice remind her that she's got "nowhere to go." Jones, sweet little Norah, tells the subject in "Miriam" that "I'm gonna smile when I take your life."
Burton proves an excellent collaborator, the music sometimes spooky and bass-heavy but also surprisingly sunny in spots. If she's not pushed or energized, Jones' music can bore. There are enough good musical ideas here to keep the mind from wandering, and it brings her squarely into contemporary pop without sounding contrived.
Thematic albums are increasingly rare these days, good ones rarer still. Jones and Burton pull it off.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Good Morning," a shimmering album opener that only hints at the depths to be explored.