The one thing you need to know about Norah Jones’ upcoming album Little Broken Hearts so far is that Danger Mouse (“Crazy,” etc.) produced it. That’s more important to know even than Norah’s name on the record; depending on how you feel about him, Danger Mouse is either admirably consistent or consistently awful. Either way, it means almost everyone who works with him comes out with roughly the same rickety-retro sound.
Norah Jones isn’t exactly Cee-Lo or the Black Keys, but nor is she an unlikely choice for Mouse either; he’s worked with torchy singers too. They’d already collaborated on his album Rome before, and the pairing worked well enough for an album-length reprise, off which “Happy Pills” is the first song. Listen below.
Danger Mouse’s production here is jauntier and less ominous than his past work; it’s still recognizably him, but the track grooves instead of groans. But of course it was going to. Norah Jones sounding ominous would be like Colbie Caillat wearing all black with a tragedy mask–it’s doable, but a fundamental part of the plan’s missing. Maybe Mouse’s the one who took the happy pills. As for Jones, her vocals are serviceable and frequently better, but always breezy enough to render lyrics like “please don’t let me go” and “I’m gonna get you” (with or without “…out of my head”) menace-free.
All this means “Happy Pills” is likely neither to alienate fans or placate those with words for Come Away With Me (you know those people; you know what sort of words we mean.) It’s exactly what a Norah Jones record would sound like in the current alt-pop climate, where breezy usually does better than torchy. It’s no risk, but again, was it ever going to be?