Album Review: Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me” (2002)

Norah Jones was pretty much everywhere in the early 2000’s.  Her husky voice was constantly heard on the radio, her videos were heavily rotated on VH1 and MTV, and she won a slew of awards, including five Grammys.

Most of this success was due to her debut album, Come Away With Me.  Jones was lauded for integrating a jazz sound with pop music and her album is a decent mix of both.  But despite all of the fanfare, Come Away with Me never quite impressed me as much as it did everyone else.  Sure, I bought it 2002, like the rest of the world. I enjoyed Jones’ voice.  And yes, I’ll admit to singing Don’t Know Why at karaoke a bajillion times.  But is this album the best thing since sliced bread?  No.  Is this merely just a decent debut effort?  I’d say so.

The disc starts with the aforementioned first single, Don’t Know Why.  The track is actually a cover of a song by a lesser-known artist, Jesse Harris (who is also one of the musicians on the album), and first appeared on one of his albums in 1999.  He didn’t receive much notoriety for it, and instead, Jones took the bluesy little number and made it famous.  Her raspy vocals, the polished production (simply composed of guitar and piano), and the heavy hearted lyrics (“My heart is drenched in wine/But you’ll be on my mind/Forever”) made the track a hit.

Title track, Come Away With Me, was a less notable single, but still one of my favorite songs on the album.  The ballad highlights Jones’ voice, and while she never goes anywhere momentous vocally (she doesn’t hit any high notes or hold any notes for a long time), her voice is at all times alluring and lovely to listen to.  The blues guitar that plays throughout the track gives off a soft, sensual vibe and the track is the perfect romantic tune for a slow dance.

Most of the other highlights are during the first half of the album.  Though only a little over two minutes long, Seven Years is a charming little track, in which Jones’ warm vocals are again the highlight and its easy to get lost in her voice.  Jones tackles another cover with Cold, Cold Heart.  The country song was originally made famous by Hank Williams, but Jones’ cover holds its own.  Again, she gives the song a jazz/blues tinge- mostly thanks to the piano and her snazzy delivery.

Norah Jones at Bright Eyes 1

Patsy Cline is channeled during Turn Me On, and Jones’ vocals sound the strongest and most powerful during the country ballad.  I’ve Got To See You Again is a Latin/flamenco-inspired track which Jones navigates surprisingly well.  The urgency in the lyrics- which were solely written by Jones- is highlighted well by her sultry delivery (“But no I won’t go for any of those things/To not touch your skin is not why I sing/I can’t help myself/I’ve got to see you again”) and the violin during the break is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls into what I’d like to call “Starbucks Music” territory: the kind of easy listening music that you wouldn’t actually listen to of your own volition, but is decent enough background noise for sipping coffee, writing a term paper, or chatting with a friend.

Feelin’ The Same Way is an upbeat, country-tinged track that doesn’t do much musically, but sounds nice all the same.  Likewise, Shoot The Moon’s sleepy melody goes nowhere in the entire four minutes that it lasts, and while the song is decent enough while listening, it’s not something you’ll instantly want to turn to.  The twang of Lonestar does absolutely nothing for me, and though Jones’ voice is ever-lovely, the track falls flat.  Painter Song sounds nice enough, but ultimately comes off sounding like something you’d hear in a piano bar, or lounge somewhere- again, nice background music, but nothing you’d actually want to go out and buy.

The album comes to a close with another cover, this time of a jazz standard, The Nearness of You.   The piano sounds nice, and so does Jones’ glossy vocals, but at this point in the album, I’ve heard a bit too much of both the piano and the sameness of Jones’ vocal delivery and it’s all just a bit tedious.  Though the album covers a few genres, because of Jones’ commonplace vocals, all of the songs sort of blend together and sound the same, making for a pretty monotonous collection of songs.   Jones even sounds bored while singing this song.

After revisiting Come Away With Me, I still stick to my original feelings about this album: some of the songs are great, Norah Jones has a nice enough voice, and it’s a good disc to put on when you want to relax (I do have some fond memories of listening to this album with some friends while we were out on a riverboat one summer).  But it’s really nothing more than a decent effort- Jones’ vocal ability is subar, and the disc as a whole, is fairly mundane.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing:
1. Don’t Know Why
2. Seven Years
3. Cold Cold Heart
4. Feelin’ the Same Way
5. Come Away With Me
6. Shoot the Moon
7. Turn Me On
8. Lonestar
9. I’ve Got to See You Again
10. Painter Song
11. One Flight Down
12. Nightingale
13. The Long Day Is Over
14. The Nearness Of You


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