Norah Jones is tougher than she appears.
Though the Grammy-winning singer has sold millions of albums by creating delicate pop songs tinged with jazz and country, her musical vision is actually quite sturdy.
She proves it on "Little Broken Hearts" (Blue Note/EMI), an album-length collaboration with producer-performer Danger Mouse, best known for his hip-hop creations with Gnarls Barkley and eerie electronic soul with Broken Bells. Jones' gorgeous, unassuming voice could easily have been overwhelmed by the new surroundings Danger Mouse provides -- the chugging blues-rock of the single "Happy Pills," the trip-hoppy rhythms of "After the Fall," the R&B guitar work and hip-hop groove of "Say Goodbye." But Jones holds her own, both musically and lyrically.
"Little Broken Hearts" is, after all, another breakup album, like her previous album "The Fall," written after another painful failed relationship. Backed by Danger Mouse, Jones examines a much deeper pain this time around, though. She writes of murdering her lover's mistress in the spare, creepy "Miriam," where she offers, "Oh Miriam, that's such a pretty name and I'll keep saying it until you die." She twists the simple ballad "She's 22" into a complaint about being left for a younger woman, while everyone seemingly gets hurt in "4 Broken Hearts."
"You tried to replace me, but you didn't get far," she declares over a dramatic, dark background, made to seem even darker by the seeming sweetness of her delivery. "I tried to repay you but I only got scarred."
The scars show throughout "Little Broken Hearts," but they seem to have only made Jones stronger.
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"Little Broken Hearts"
BOTTOM LINE Breaking new musical ground with Danger Mouse