At a time when female singers regularly bare their bellies, their breasts and their souls, jazz-pop singer Norah Jones barely shows more of her body than her shoulders, gives few interviewsand yet outsells almost anybody else. Her first CD, Come Away with Me, sold 8 million copies and won eight Grammys. Her second, Feels Like Home, moved 1 million copies in its first week of release.
She is not Nirvana or Pearl Jam; she hasn't captured the passions or preoccupations of her generation; she is not a new flavor that launches 32 more. Instead, her success has called attention to the jazz-pop divas who came before herCassandra Wilson, Diana Krall and Madeleine Peyroux. Most pop phenomena are lightning bolts, flashing quickly and dramatically across the zeitgeist. Jones is a light rain, touching everything and seeping permanently into the soil. In an age when knob-twiddling producers rule and lip-synching pop tarts stalk the stage, she has reintroduced the world to the human voice. Jones is rooted by that libidoless, timeless and peerless voicea calm, blue-tinted murmur that shies away from American Idol-style showboating. I like her jazzy, soulful first album more than her folksy, drowsy second. But in the serenity of her song delivery, this bold proclamation is issued: technology, publicity and sexuality have their place in music, but they are all subordinate to the pleasures and power of true vocal talent.