By: Ben Norman
When it comes to the arduous task of turning something average into something great, the remix typically isn’t the place to go. Sure, remixes have done wondrous things for many a song, but many of those songs held notoriety on their own without the use of a Tiesto or a Calvin Harris on board. But for Norah Jones, the question is: How do you do her justice? The woman’s voice was what brought her the attention on her debut song, “Come Away With Me,” that smooth, deep, yearning instrument played stronger than any of the others that comprised her music. With each subsequent release, however, Ms. Jones found herself adrift in a sea of pop and rock that made it difficult for an earnest jazz singer to really make a lasting impression. Fast forward to 2012, and Norah Jones has broken down the walls surrounding her own musical standards, working with Gnarls Barkley magic man Danger Mouse, and really pushing the boundaries of what people would tolerate her doing. All in all, Little Broken Hearts was a critical and commercial success. And yet… I found myself a little disheartened by the end result, no track really pulling me in either in voice or production. Is it possible that the two minds of Mouse and Jones failed to deliver on what should have been a masterpiece? Sadly, in my opinion, yes.
But the question still remains: How do you do her justice? On the remix EP of Little Broken Hearts, the overwhelming response is: CHILL. Almost every remix maintains a cocktail lounge level of enthusiasm, and if this is your thing, you will eat this up. To me, it took lackluster, added a little lackluster, and turned it in with a big bright smile. The majority of content contributed is by guitarist/producer David Andrew Sitek. And what he contributes, he does well. The remixes themselves, while ultimately falling short of expectation, are expertly crafted. Sitek tackles tracks “Good Morning,” “She’s 22,” “Take It Back,” and “After the Fall.” All would work well as background music for Sex and the City.
Famous ambient DJ Jose Padilla contributes to the EP as well, layering soft beats and retro melodies for Jones’ “Say Goodbye” and “Travellin’ On,” and the combination of that Cafe Del Mar vibe with Jones’ vocals is actually a little alluring. However, it is Peter Bjorn and John’s rendition of “Miriam” that shines the most here, the purveyors of “Young Folks” giving a folk-pop fuzz to a track that sounded more wallow than adult contemporary.
At the end of the day, it’s packaging and intent that can build or break expectations, and to label this as a “Remix EP” is almost buying trouble. The “remixes” themselves are quality work, but with the versions themselves more “reimaginations,” all involved could have definitely put their best qualities first, but lack the guts and panache to really bring Jones’ new album back into people’s minds. Anyone expecting an aural rollercoaster ride with this collection of chill and ambient Norah Jones songs would be let down, and hard. In its defense however, I will say that anyone looking for excellent chill music should definitely look this collection up. Sitek, Padillo, and the “Young Folks” will give you a great, relaxed evening.