moments before the wind.

October 24, 2006

we come with a funky style

Filed under: music, reviews — alimarcus @ 8:37 am

Boring, Oregon is a town near Portland where there are a whole bunch of fields and an annual folk music festival. Just boring, though, is a young woman, and her name is Norah Jones.

No matter what I do, I cannot understand why people think Norah Jones is so great. She’s beautiful, yes, and she has a nice voice, and I hear that her piano skills are impressive, but the combination has never gotten my attention and I am continually shocked at the sheer number of people who love her stuff. It’s boring. Every song sounds the same. And it’s all so hushy. I totally understand how it appeals to the older set, who finally are able to be hip without having to beat their eardrums with ripping guitar lines or pounding beats. And I suppose she is good for the jazz folk b/c as a crossover type, she brings people into the jazz world that never would have found their own way. But man, listening to her music just makes me groan.

If she’s really as talented as she’s cracked up to be, then I challenge her to live up to the hype and write something that does more than soothe the frazzled nerves of contemporary America. Music should bring something to an audience that they weren’t aware of, or didn’t have, or just didn’t have the words for. What her music does is quite different; her music says “shhh…its alright…just go to sleep…” etc. etc.


  1. “Music should bring something to an audience that they weren’t aware of, or didn’t have, or just didn’t have the words for.”


    “her music says “shhh…its alright…just go to sleep…”

    Neither here nor there w/ Ms. Jones, though I think “Don’t Know Why” is a pretty great pop song, but comforting and comfortable music can be good.

    Must we always be provocative?

    Comment by Jay Sherman-Godfrey — October 24, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  2. Well, no, provocative implies antagonism and I don’t mean it that way. I mean instigate, enlighten, bring something new to the table.

    The neurons in my brain, they check out when Norah Jones is on.
    If it takes provocation to engage someone, to prevent them from checking out, then sure, music needs to be provocative. But maybe evocative is better.
    Malcom Gladwell has this lecture on the New Yorker website where he talks about an “extraordinary confluence” of emotional resonance – and when you think about vibration, you understand that it’s about give and take, that it takes two.

    Comment by alimarcus — October 24, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

  3. I think people find Jones’s hushed tones sultry/sexy — not, “shh, go to sleep,” but more, “yeahhhh, let’s roll over and go back to sleep.” A lot of adult contemporary (the station that calls itself the Mountain! in Seattle) has a similar hushed tone, especially vocally. I think of it as the Sound of Beleaguered Liberalism — I understand the appeal, although it’s not a personal fave.

    (p.s. since you mention him, I heard Gladwell speak a couple of weeks ago. Worthwhile descriptive analysis; very phony — but lucratively sale-able — optimism regarding prospects of social change. He didn’t know what he was talking about. For more: )

    Comment by john — October 24, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

  4. “bring something new to the table”

    I don’t know — this sounds like a burden on both sides — creator and listener. Connection for me is often a rekindling of sorts, as opposed to a reaction to novelty or juxtaposition. Of course, I come at this self consciously (or maybe defensive?) — my music is utterly conventional (on purpose, but still…), unchallenging (on the surface anyway) and pretty relaxed, too. I think Norah is crafty and interesting in her own way, below the surface.

    But I’m not really a fan, and concur w/ much of your analysis. One of the best things about “Don’t Know Why” is she rises to a (nearly) full-throated tone on the bridge, something she never rarely does on anything else. The hush would be more successful if offset by a few shouts, no?

    Anyway, I enjoy reading your stuff and good luck w/ the recording.

    Comment by Jay Sherman-Godfrey — October 25, 2006 @ 7:34 am

  5. I think the asides sum it all up:
    “neither here nor there,” “although it’s not a personal fave,” and “but I’m not really a fan.”

    Comment by alimarcus — October 25, 2006 @ 7:50 pm

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