February 24, 2003

norah jones: relatively on top of the world

Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Pop Vocal Album. Jones is so much in favor right now that even her producer and studio engineers received grammys. This phenomenon begs the question: Why?

As a musician, performer, and visual attraction, Norah Jones is good. She's probably even great. But is she worth 8 grammys? Even she was shocked -- every time she walked up to give her 6 acceptance speeches. Apparently Norah can do no wrong, beating out the likes of Eminem, the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen, Avril Lavigne, John Mayer, Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch, Ashanti, Sheryl Crow, Pink, Britney Spears, and No Doubt, to name a few -- winning every single category she was nominated for.

The explanation is simple: In a music industry that is currently devoid of "new" talented musicians, Norah Jones is relatively on top of the world. This is a strangely depressing statement that currently defines reality. Is Norah Jones more talented than all of the artists she was up against? Probably not. Is the population so thirsty for some new talent worth three-quarters of a shit that they will practically assault anyone qualified? If Sunday is any indication, the answer is yes.

First and foremost, Jones is a singer. A second look reveals a trained pianist. Songwriting, however, does not appear to be her forte -- Norah wrote only 2 of the 14 songs on her debut album. This, the performer that does not write their own material, is a common and easy criticism of manufacturered singer groups (the backstreet boys and the spice girls, for example). But no such criticism is voiced of Norah. Apparently this is an easily forgettable sin, if listeners are actually convinced the performer is any good.

Norah Jones' tremendous success once again illustrates a truism of popular music: If you sing it well, they will come. For any given song and any given group, the population as a whole is primarily focused on one person: The singer. All other factors are subordinate. Splash some skilled piano playing and slick producing on top of a talented voice, and you are only adding icing to the cake.

Perhaps this landslide will bring about some realization. But it is far more likely to just cause overexposure, a sour taste left behind by a candy that was supposed to taste good.

-e

Posted by eviljack in reality at February 24, 2003 11:50 PM