There were plenty of raised eyebrows when it was announced that Norah Jones would be making her next album with Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. She's ruled the adult contemporary airwaves since her 2002 Grammy Award-winning debut, the softly pleasing radio staple Come Away with Me. Jones's talent is indisputable, but there's been plenty of scorn levied her way about what she does with her gifts.
Her upcoming record, Little Broken Hearts, is a defiant middle finger to her critics and the man/men that have done her wrong. Not that Jones really cares what anyone thinks. But she knows that once people have come out of Hearts' other side, her "good girl" reputation may not be intact. The album dwells in some dark and dangerous corners, including the stellar "Miriam," a spooky stand-out that finds Jones sweetly singing a fantasy about killing the woman who stole her man.
"Obviously I care a little bit about what people think, but I try not to," Jones tells Exclaim! "I feel pretty secure in who I think I am and what I know I do. It's not like I do anything crazily different [on Hearts], just a couple of songs were a little mean. It's not like I'm such a bad girl. I'm an adult. I'm not a little kid... It's not like I'm pulling one over on people. I am a nice person."
Plus, Burton's own fingerprints are everywhere on the album, including on the actual song composition. Jones says it was an unusual experience, sharing songwriting duties with another person, but feels the record benefitted from their mind meld.
"Since we wrote all the songs together, there were definitely things in the songwriting that are different from what I would normally do, which is great, and made it a collaboration," Jones says. "But also the sonic landscape. I went out to L.A. to record in his studio with his engineers, because I wanted whatever he had. I wasn't really sure what that was because he's so versatile. I just knew he had a different sonic language that he used.
"He's kind of a gear head, they know how to turn a lot of knobs and make a simple acoustic guitar sound really different. But they never go too far, it always sounds interesting and beautiful. You can go too far with that stuff sometimes, but I just never heard him do that. He's so good at striking that balance of playing natural instruments and producing in a way that kind of feels right."
The two had talked about making an album together for years, so it was a twist of fate that when the timing came together; Jones happened to arrive in L.A. fresh from breakup.
"I never really intended to write about [my breakup] and it's still kind of encrypted," she says. "We've all gone through things and had those moments. Whether you're going through a breakup that's serious or casual or you're jealous of something. We've all had twinges of these feelings at some point. Or, the older you get, you will.
"It became more about me and Brian being a little bit more philosophical about relationships. We definitely got inside each other's heads. I wouldn't have been able to write these kinds of songs with somebody I didn't know that well. We would take a feeling and kind of run with it... but the album's not a diary. I was never nervous about writing it, because I know what's real and what's not."
Little Broken Hearts arrives May 1 through Blue Note/EMI.