Norah Jones took liberty with her blockbuster success to set out on a musical walkabout, spending a good portion of the decade following 2004's Feels Like Home experimenting, either on her own albums or on a variety of collaborations. Day Breaks, released four years after the atmospheric adult alternative pop of the Danger Mouse-produced Little Broken Hearts, finds Jones returning home to an extent: it, like her 2002 debut Come Away with Me, is a singer/songwriter album with roots in pop and jazz, divided between originals and sharply selected covers. Such similarities are immediately apparent, but Day Breaks is much slyer than a mere revival.
Norah Jones goes back to basics with her new straight up jazz album, Day Breaks. While her 2002 breakout debut Come Away With Me is arguably more of a pop record, and subsequent records dabbled in country and folk, Jones has never been shy about showing her jazz roots, and with this 12-track full-length, she hews closely to the genre. As a musician, vocalist and lyricist, Jones is in a solid place in terms of mastery.
At this point of her career, it’s easy to forget that Norah Jones was once considered a jazz singer. Back in 2002, long before she worked with Jack White and Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, Jones released Come Away With Me, an understated gem that went on to sell over 11 million units and earn eight Grammy awards—including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Don’t Know Why.” Armed with that voice—a wry, simmering inflection—the Texas native has proven she can sing anything, and sound natural doing so, no matter where the road has taken her. That said, it’s been tough to assess Jones’ creative arc.
Rightful or not, Norah Jones was painted into a corner by the massive success of her 2002 debut album, Come Away with Me. She got a serious boost from Starbucks and the record came out on Blue Note, meaning that the coffeehouse jazz tag stuck hard. Jones’ smoky, smooth voice and low-tempo singles didn’t shake that perception either. She pushed hard on later records like the strong Little Broken Hearts, diversifying her genre choices almost to her own detriment, ranging from indie pop to cinematic Western.
To a certain extent, Norah Jones’s debut album, Come Away With Me, would be as much of a curse as it was a gift. While immensely successful as it rode on the wave of adult contemporary jazz-pop that was flourishing at the time with the likes of John Mayer, it also painted Norah Jones as a jazz vocalist with no room for much else. As the years went by, Mayer was able to incorporate blues, country, and folk into his musical repertoire with ease, but Jones would never be able to match the overwhelming success of Come Away With Me.