Gushing Over Norah Jones’ Debut Come Away With Me: 20 Years Later

If we look at the winners of the Grammy for Album of The Year throughout the past few years, there have been few outliers that pushed away from pop. However, before its dominance in the 2010s, the 00s had musically rich nominees and winners from different genres and sometimes a subversion of pop. Amongst these winners came Norah Jones and her remarkable debut, Come Away With Me

Come Away With Me has been part of my weekly rotation for the longest, as it embodies sentiments that become begotten when the sun shines, and some of your worries scurry into the shadows. But that isn’t necessarily the case with every song, as some bridge a line of twinkling hope – one of my all-time favorites, “Feelin’ the Same Way,” does so to balance the scale of pop bliss and intricate reflexive songwriting. Norah Jone’s debut brings these sonic elements from jazz, soul, traditional pop, and more to lay a foundation for a constant atmosphere while having the freedom to take on different pitches and styles. She has this ubiquitous laid-back demeanor that makes you feel heard and seen when you’re in the middle. The songwriting guides us through a watery path caused by the storms that flew over as the mind assimilates to a balanced level of serotonin. Norah Jones broadens her vocals by allowing the melodies to counteract the loverly instrumentation beats in the strings and percussion. 

Before escalating toward more pronounced Jazz and Traditional Pop ventures, the levels of emotional subtlety Norah Jones uses to guide Come Away With Me left an impression where the loop never ended. I remember it was a darker and rainy Sunday afternoon, and as I sat in the backseat, I almost forgot I had an iPod Classic. I’ve heard “Come Away With Me” and “Don’t Know Why,” but Norah started driving home what this journey would be with the subsequent tracks that succeeded the primary singles – which I just mentioned. What I got was a blend of original composition and covers of songs by Hank Williams, John D. Loudermilk, and Glen Miller.

Now, when I say that Norah Jones has been making more pronounced Jazz and Pop, it’s speaking toward the instrumental side. Come Away With Me has production balancing nuances of mostly deconstructed Acoustic/Traditional Pop, where the rhythm is pertinent with the vocalist instead of overly sizzled drumlines or multi-layered strings that weave a driven sense of acute obscurity. Come Away With Me has songs that are more than just highlighted acoustics and somber piano keys; it integrates subtleties from other percussions – with this, Norah Jones can align unique melodies against compromising cymbals and snares. It separates the creative popstars from the generic ones, though I’m saying this loosely. When the album adds some instrumental definition with bass and drum grooves, it doesn’t deter from the subtleties which align with most songs. It builds upon the core it has created, and it subverts focus from one of many guitar strings to percussion (bass grooves too). 

However, what is most pivotal is we hear each song’s identity, whether it comes from the production of “Lonestar” or the vocal complexions of “Nightingale.” Identity is pivotal in Come Away With Me, especially when incorporating its themes – longing, dreams, relationships – Norah writes various narratives that focus on specific aspects – loneliness in “Shoot the Moon” or unrequited love in “I’ve Got To See You Again.” In “Painter’s Song,” she sings about paving her path through paint metaphors. The production sets a sunnier tone with the piano and doubling down with beautiful accordion play in the second half. 

At this point, I assume you may be asking yourself, “where is he going here?” I just listed a deconstructed barrage of reasons, from the intricacies of her singing, the songwriting, and production, but I’m not critiquing. Most importantly, I kept gushing and spewing about these intricacies that it seems there is no coherent argument outside of getting you into listening to this album and marveling at what I was marveling at in the past and now. Come Away With Me has been with me for the longest those are just some of the reasons why. I play it when it rains; I play it at night when I want to drift into melancholia. I just want you to feel the same as you listen to Norah Jones’ phenomenal debut.

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