Releasing the 26th bestselling US album of all time as your debut buys you the right to do whatever you want for the rest of your career. But where genre and production experimentation may lead others astray, Norah Jones brings a particular grace to songwriting that allows her to adapt almost seamlessly to new forms. Begin Again revels in exploration, proving no territory is inaccessible to Jones.
As such, there is something thrillingly free about the songs on Begin Again. They resist simple categorization and are experimental in the sense that they embody an unabashed confluence of Jones’ many musical inspirations. Much of the propulsion on the record comes from Jones’ personnel, who she manages to brilliantly highlight without losing her creative reigns. Prodigious session artists like Brian Blade and Chris Thomas add a degree of technical adroitness and improvisational flourish, while Jeff Tweedy contributes bountiful alt-folk prowess.
The album is a singles collection and as such, isn’t meant to have a cohesive liner structure. It’s also short, seven lean tracks with no filler, a reminder that Jones has enough talent and self-awareness—those two are rarely in concert with each other—to try her hand at multiple genres without stretching herself too thin.