Little Broken Hearts

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Little Broken Hearts
Studio album by Norah Jones
Released April 25, 2012 (2012-04-25)
Recorded 2011; Mondo Studio, Electro Vox Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Genre Indie pop[1]
Length 44:54
Label Blue Note
Producer Danger Mouse
Norah Jones chronology
The Fall
(2009)
Little Broken Hearts
(2012)
Foreverly
(2013)
Singles from Little Broken Hearts
  1. "Happy Pills"
    Released: March 6, 2012 (2012-03-06)
  2. "Miriam"
    Released: July 25, 2012 (2012-07-25)

Little Broken Hearts (stylized as ...Little Broken Hearts) is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Norah Jones, released on April 25, 2012 by Blue Note Records. This is Jones' first release since 2009's The Fall. The album is produced by Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, who is notable for his production work with The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley, and Beck among others.[2] On April 15, the entire album streamed online on NPR.

"Happy Pills" was released[where?] as the album's lead single on March 6, 2012, reaching number forty-four on Billboard '​s Rock Songs and number thirteen on Adult Contemporary.[3] The song received mostly positive reviews, and tells the story of Jones emancipating herself from a relationship and finding that she is better off alone. The second single, "Miriam", was released on July 25, 2012 and peaked at number eighty-two on the Japan Hot 100.[4]

Background[edit]

In 2009, Jones and Burton jammed in the Gnarls Barkley producer's Los Angeles studio to begin work on a project about which nobody knew[citation needed]. They spent five days together in June 2009, working on what would eventually become Jones' fifth solo album. The sessions were fruitful, but neither of them were quite satisfied[citation needed]. They spent the next two years working separately on other projects: she completed her fourth studio album The Fall, recorded another album with her old Alternative Country band mates the Little Willies, which turned to For the Good Times. Burton started a new project Broken Bells with James Mercer, spending some time in studio with U2 and working on their thirteenth studio album and produced The Black Keys seventh studio album, El Camino.[5] The duo previously collaborated on the 2011 album Rome, on which she contributed vocals to the tracks "Season's Trees", "Black" and "Problem Queen". Soon after the project was completed, the two headed into the studio again to work on her fifth album.[6]

In summer of 2011 Jones and Burton reconvened at Burton's studio to finish Little Broken Hearts. At this time Jones brought a handful of raw, emotionally charged new tunes she penned in the wake of a harsh breakup with her fiction-writer boyfriend[citation needed]. In an interview with Rolling Stone March issue she said: "I always heard the old stories about how you write better songs when you go through some shit. That sucks, but it's true!"[5]

Composition[edit]

Little Broken Hearts follows from experimental chamber serenades to stark, electronic-embellished confessions. As Burton mentioned in his interview with Rolling Stone, this album is very different from anything Jones has ever done before.

Rolling Stone writer Matt Diehl pointed the track "Take It Back" as Jones' boldest departure, which features fuzzed-out guitars and spooky, distorted vocals. On "4 Broken Hearts", he compared her to Dusty Springfield while confronting a mutual infidelity and, in the end, found a similarity between this record and Marvin Gaye's album Here, My Dear.[5]

Packaging and title[edit]

Norah Jones portrayed herself as Clara Belle (Lorna Maitland) in Mudhoney poster.

The cover art for the album was inspired by the poster to the film Mudhoney. Jones was recording the album at Danger Mouse's studio and saw the poster on the wall. She said, "Brian has this great collection of Russ Meyer posters in his studio. And this particular one...was right over the couch where I sat every day. I always was looking at it and thinking 'that's so cool I want to look like her!' I remember staring at the poster the whole time we made the record. It's a great visual."[7]

The photos for the album were taken by the photographer of Mad Men Frank Ockenfels III, who worked with artists such as Fiona Apple and also Burton for his duo band with James Mercer, Broken Bells.[8] The rest of the album design and directions were by Frank Harkins.[9]

The title of the album (and most of the tracks) allude to a recent break-up.[5]

Promotion[edit]

On February 28, 2012, she premiered "Happy Pills", the first single from the album, via an announcement on her Facebook page on SoundCloud.[10] After she announced that she will perform at the 2012 SXSW, she added that she would perform her new song at the show for the first time.[2] "Happy Pills" was released on March 6, 2012.[11] Days after premiering of "Happy Pills", on March 12, Jones uploaded "Travelin' On", another track from the album, on Soundcloud.[12] On April 15, NPR uploaded the entire album for streaming online.[13]

Jones performed in Germany on April 18, 2012 at the “Alter Wartesaal” —the old waiting room of Cologne's main station, Köln Hauptbahnhof— a concert that was presented by the WDR.[14] It was broadcast on radio and the music television show Rockpalast (on May 21).[15] On April 25, she appeared in Later... with Jools Holland show alongside Jack White, Alabama Shakes, Grimes, The Chieftains, Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Secret Sisters where she performed three songs of the album: "Say Goodbye", "Happy Pills" and "Little Broken Hearts".[16]

Jones also announced some tour dates as promotion for the album. She was also a part of Gurtenfestival 2012 alongside artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Snow Patrol, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Friendly Fires and others.[17] On August 10, 2012, she joined Foo Fighters, Franz Ferdinand, Beck, Metallica, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Sigur Rós, Stevie Wonder, Skrillex and others for the 2012 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 69/100[19]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[20]
BBC Music favorable[21]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[22]
Entertainment Weekly B[23]
The Independent 4/5 stars[24]
musicOMH 4/5 stars[25]
New York Daily News 4/5 stars[26]
PopMatters 7/10[27]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[28]
Spin 8/10[29]

Little Broken Hearts received positive reviews from music critics. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 69 based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic gave a positive review to the album, awarding it with three-and-a-half stars out of five, found Jones and Burton "well matched" and said: "Norah Jones may be pouring her heart out but it's been given an elegantly detailed sculpture that camouflages her pain. Listen closely and its evident, but it takes effort to ignore the alluring haze and hear the songs that lie beneath."[20] American Songwriter '​s review was positive about the album, calling it "the most dramatic and rewarding departure she's [Jones] made in her career" and said: "Little Broken Hearts is her most commanding and compelling role yet."[30] Robert Copsey of Digital Spy gave a positive review to the album and rated it four-stars-out-of-five, writing: "It might be dark, but this stunning collection of anguish is the brightest she's shined in a long time."[31] Marcus J. Moore of BBC Music also gave a positive review to the album, mentioned she "never sounds too depressed on this set", and further expanded: "She keeps the mood fairly moderate amongst Burton's fluid soundtrack, setting the pace with a wry bravado that makes this album a dynamic listen."[21] Maerz of Entertainment Weekly gave a B grade to the album and wrote: "With Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) producing, the heavy-lidded-vixen thing works for her here."[23] Consequence of Sound critic Adam Kivel went in-depth on his review of the album, finally giving it three-and-a-half stars out of five and concluded: "This is a serious indie pop album. Jones and Burton have created something that should fit in the record collection of any Feist-loving indie kid just as easily as that of those soccer moms she won over years ago."[1]

Although Mojo magazine was more critical about the album in its May 2012 issue, finding the duo unsuitable, but gave it a three-star-out-of-five write-up, concluding the album showed "An intriguing partnership that fails to entirely live up to expectations," but Uncut magazine was positive, giving the album three-and-a-half stars out of five and writing: "This is a bold and engaging revolution."[19] Slant Magazine reviewer Jonathan Keefe also gave it a three-and-a-half star out of five and said: "Instead, by revealing some carefully chosen, deeply personal details and by building elaborate façades for the sake of drama, Jones has crafted her headiest, most complex album to date."[32] Kitty Empire of The Guardian criticized the album and gave it a three-star-out-of-five, saying: "Mostly, though, Little Broken Hearts finds an effective way to grab the listener by the lapels: with kid gloves."[33] Andy Gill of The Independent was very positive about the album, remarking: "There's always an ingenious, often unexpected, connection linking the music to the mood of a specific song," and gave it a four-out-of-five-star.[24] However, Nick Coleman of The Independent on Sunday was more critical about the record, saying Jones' "strength as a singer comes not from the power of her voice but the detail of her phrasing" and gave it a three-star-out-of-five rating, labelling the album "dull".[34] The Daily Telegraph writer Helen Brown was positive on the album, giving it four-out-of-five stars and wrote: "In the past decade, it seems Jones has made a sneaky transition from dinner party backdrop to David Lynch soundtrack."[22]

MSN Music picked the album as Album of the Week and praised it with four-out-of-five star review, noting: "It may be a cliché, but Jones has proven that heartbreak makes good music."[35] Jim Farber of New York Daily News was also positive about the album, writing it shows "[an] undeniably darker Norah than we've heard before", and gave it a four-out-of-five-star review, opining that: "True to its title, Little Broken Hearts amounts to an end-of-the-relationship concept album, told from the point of view of a woman in full control of her poisonous feelings. Unsurprisingly, Jones went through a break-up right before creating the music. To seal the mood, she came up with a sound as broodingly coherent as the soundtrack to a domestic drama."[26] The Washington Post positive, highlighting the opening track of the record, "Good Morning" and said: "Thematic albums are increasingly rare these days, good ones rarer still. Jones and Burton pull it off."[36] Boston Globe praised the album, saying: "There are enough good musical ideas here to keep the mind from wandering, and it brings her squarely into contemporary pop without sounding contrived."[37] Greg Kot of Chicago Tribune gave it a three-out-of-four star review and said: "There are enough good musical ideas here to keep the mind from wandering, and it brings her squarely into contemporary pop without sounding contrived."[38] musicOMH was positive, giving the album four-out-of-five stars and praised the team for the collaboration and remarked: "The team assembled here have done something quite remarkable, and this new-found partnership between Jones and Burton could perhaps lead to some very fine collaborations on future albums."[25] Rolling Stone reviewer Will Hermes said "her [Jones'] fifth album is a brand-rejigging songwriting collab with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton that both picks up her pace and pumps up her palette," awarding it three-and-a-half stars out of five and closed the review with: "even good girls need revenge sometimes."[28] Enio Chiola of PopMatters also gave a positive review of the album, scored it as seven out of ten, praised Jones for her writing skill and said: "Instead of picking apart the tracks that work best, the entire album plays like a cohesive whole, somehow frayed and fragmented if not left intact."[27] Spin '​s review was very positive, scoring it as eight out of ten and writing: "Little Broken Hearts is exciting because it explores the darkest corners of betrayal, bad love, and jealousy with enough vitality to propel Jones out of the bloodless purgatory of brunch music."[29] Andrea Warner of Exclaim! was also very positive, noting: "This Norah Jones is damaged, dangerous and vulnerable, and Burton's mastery of sound helps deepen the relationship between listener and song."[39]

Commercial performance[edit]

Little Broken Hearts debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 110,000 copies in its first week.[40] It is Jones' fifth studio album to reach the top three and her second album in her career not to debut atop the chart.[40] The album's debut sales week is the smallest for any of her studio albums since her first, Come Away with Me (2002), which sold 10,000 copies in its first week.[40] The album dropped to number five the following week, selling 60,000 copies.[41] In its third week, the album stayed at number five with sales of 45,000 copies,[42] and dropped to number ten in its fourth week with 28,000 copies sold.[43] Little Broken Hearts had sold 385,000 copies in the US as of December 2012.[44]

The album entered the Canadian Albums Chart at number two, selling 13,200 copies in its first week.[45] Little Broken Hearts debuted at number four on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 15,988 copies.[46] In Japan, it debuted at number five with 13,278 copies sold,[47] and had sold 73,041 copies there by the end of 2012.[48] The album debuted at number two on the French Albums Chart with first-week sales of 15,527 copies,[49] and has sold over 71,200 copies in France as of the end of 2012.[50] Little Broken Hearts sold 1, 028, 400 copies worldwide by the end of 2012.[51]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Norah Jones and Brian Burton

No. Title Length
1. "Good Morning"   3:17
2. "Say Goodbye"   3:27
3. "Little Broken Hearts"   3:12
4. "She's 22"   3:10
5. "Take It Back"   4:06
6. "After the Fall"   3:42
7. "4 Broken Hearts"   2:59
8. "Travelin' On"   3:06
9. "Out on the Road"   3:28
10. "Happy Pills"   3:34
11. "Miriam"   4:25
12. "All a Dream"   6:29
Total length:
44:54

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Little Broken Hearts.[9]

Musicians
  • Norah Jones – vocals, acoustic and electric guitar (on all tracks exc. 6, 8, 9), bass (2), piano (exc. 1, 3, 6, 8), Rhodes (1, 7), Wurlitzer (2, 5), organ (4)
  • Brian Burton – electric guitar (2, 3, 5, 7, 9), acoustic guitar (1, 8), bass and programming (12), synthesizer (on all tracks exc. 7–9, 11), organ (1, 6), piano (6), drums (2, 3, 5, 7, 10), percussion (3), string arrangements (5, 6, 11, 12)
  • Blake Mills – electric guitar (on all tracks exc. 2, 8), acoustic guitar (7, 11, 12)
  • Dan Elkan and Todd Monfalcone – electric guitar (track 10)
  • Gus Seyffert – bass (tracks 3, 5–7, 9, 11, 12), electric guitar (5, 7), backing vocals (5)
  • Heather McIntosh – bass (track 8), cello (and its arrangement) (1, 2, 8)
  • Jonathan Hischke – bass (track 10)
  • Joey Waronker – drums, percussion (tracks 6, 7, 9, 11, 12)
  • Sonus Quartet – strings (tracks 5, 6, 11, 12)
Production
  • Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) – production
  • Todd Monfalcone and Kennie Takahashi – engineering at Mondo Studio and Electro Vox Studios, Los Angeles, CA
  • Tom Schick – additional engineering on track 12 at The Coop
  • Kennie Takahashi – mixing at Canyon Country, CA
  • Greg Calbi – mastering at Sterling Sound, New York, NY
  • Vanessa Freebairn-Smith – score preparation
  • Eli Wolf – A&R
  • Ronette Bowie and Liz Isik – A&R administration
  • Ira Friedman – business affairs
  • Zach Hochkeppel – product manager
  • Gordon H. Jee – creative director
  • Frank Harkins – art direction, design
  • Frank W. Ockenfels 3 – photography
  • Kemal Harris – stylist
  • Mandy Lyons – hair stylist
  • Sarai Fiszel – make-up artist

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label
Japan[100] April 25, 2012 EMI
Australia[101] April 27, 2012
Germany[102]
France[103] April 30, 2012
United Kingdom[104] Blue Note Records, Parlophone
United States[105] May 1, 2012 Blue Note Records

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