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Norah Jones and globalisation

Well, lovers out there, St. Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. For those in the mood I heartily recommend the new CD by that wonderful young diva, Norah Jones, who’s debut album has already sold a reported 17 million copies worldwide.

Ms Jones’s success and background got me thinking on an important cultural point. We are led to believe, for example, that globalisation will lead to the extinction of local, unique cultures and the replacement of a sort of mushy global soup. And yet as the writer Tyler Cowen showed in a recent excellent book on the cultural riches possible via globalisation, the growing mix of different cultures possible on today’s world is making possible new directions in areas like music and art. Norah Jones, with her mixed ethnic background and her fusion of country and western, blues and soul music styles, is a living embodiment of what Cowen means.

And she is certainly rather easy on the eye, in case you wondered.


Update: The new album, “Feels Like Home”, which has a more overtly country feel, is excellent, in my view.

16 comments to Norah Jones and globalisation

  • toolkien

    Isn’t this what lefty multiculturalists want? A sort of generalized blending of cultures? But I guess it has to be to their drum I guess. Multiculturalism is revealed for the threadbare notion it is and that it has nothing to do so much with cultures, or differences, but how supposedly different people meld to lefty ideas.

  • I agree with your main point – music is a very good example of the positive cultural aspects of globalisation – but you picked the wrong person to refute the mushy soup fallacy. To my ears, Ms Jones’ is the acme of “mushy soup” (to my eyes it’s a different story!). I wonder whether there would be so many takers for her bland lite-jazz-soul-country if she looked like the back of a bus?

  • well, I guess I asked for for it – I was optimistic

  • Er, that’s Norah Jones. (I’m not much of a nitpicker, but thought it might aid those wishing to look up more of her work, as I’m sure there’s a ton of unrelated Nora Joneses out there on the web.)

    Though her second album isn’t as good as the first, it’s still an enjoyable experience. I have pretty broad tastes in music, but was amazed to see my friends and my staunchly traditional grandfather raving over the same artist.

    Rum Smuggler

  • billg

    Because tastes differ, music is an awkward example to fit into a critique of globalization. But, it’s also a very good example because it is so quick to reflect input from different sources.

    Norah’s dad, Ravi Shankar, did his bit when he allowed the Beatles to adopt him. Likewise, U.S. military radio and record companies did their bit 10 or 15 years earlier by letting Brit kids listen to Yankee blues.

    Advances in communications technology mean that local art, business, and culture move farther and faster than they did yesterday. but the process has been going on from Day One. E.g., wehn one Vro-Magnon clan beat up their neighbors and moved into their cave, they brought along their own cave drawings. That was “globalization” on a very small scale. The only thing that’s changed is how far we can reach, and the rise of romanticism and racism disguised as desire to preserve someone else’s culture, In the end, it boils down to privileged, most white, folks wanting to maintain the rest of the world as a musuem for their own amusement,

  • Brock

    toolkien – actually, no, Lefties do not want a big mushy soup.

    If you had to blend two cultures you might eventually be faced with a choice of which element to include (such as ‘women can vote’ and ‘no they cannot’). If you came to that choice you would be forced to decide which one to incorporate – you would have to say one was better than the other.

    And no culture is better than any other you know, just different.

  • billg

    >>”no culture is better than any other you know, just different.”

    If the difference is that people in one culture have a life expectancy that’s 30 years shorter than in an other culture, then it’s OK to say the second culture is better.

    If the difference is that one culture can’t generate enough interest or resources to feed and educate all their children, then it’s OK to say that other cultures are better.

    If the difference is that European culture centuries ago didn’t know what caused and spread the plague, it’s OK to say a culture that let millions of people die is not as good as a culture that knows better.

    It’s OK to make value judgments based on reality.

  • Not a political point, but Norah Jones’s music will be filling the late Barry White’s role. Of course she is easier on the eyes… I think the technical term is ‘yummy!’

  • I wonder if the anti-globalization forces are consistent enough with their philosophy to demand the closings of the various Asian restaurants in the West. I can hear the chanting now: “Chinese buffet is cultural imperialism!”

  • Martin Adamson

    As Brock says,

    And no culture is better than any other you know, just different.


    That’s right. There is no moral choice to be made between the culture of Poland in 2004 and the culture of Poland in 1944. They’re just different, that’s all.

  • A_t

    🙂 i love it when you guys go off on your fictional lefty rants. Always entertaining to see how far you can go in building your ultimate golem.

    As for Norah Jones, I can’t say the girl sucks, but man is she boring. Reheated Erykah Badu, but Erykah moved on from that sound a while ago. There are a number of female balladeers around @ the mo, all ploughing that easy furrow & selling nicely.

  • mike

    Slightly off the topic of the music, but what most of these “anti-globalisation” loons would seem to prefer is that poor coffee growers in south america don’t sell their products at all rather than sell them to Starbucks…

    Altermondialises folles…..

  • Not only do have her first album, rate and like it. but I went to see her live. She gained respect from me, when after a rather soporific show she ended with “Ride On” by AC/DC. She proudly declared herself a fan of Angus & Co. I would not recomend her first album for driving though, it does have the habit of putting one into sleep.

    I have yet to get her latest platter, I look forward to hearing it however. I would not be surprised if it is not as good as the first one. Sophmore outtings are hard for successful artists and have been many’s downfall.

  • Norah Jones’ music fails to excite me … but at the same time, realize that she is making a ton of money for Blue Note Records, enabling them to keep offering real jazz. So I can respect her for that.


  • Kirk Hawley

    I heard Norah Jones on an NPR interview the other day. She was talking about being asked to sing “Strange Fruit” in high school, and wondering if it was appropriate for her – “I’m a white girl!” Which forced me to reflect on many things – first, it is now OK to define your ethnicity by yor upbringing, rather than your genetics. Second, the similarities and differences between her and her remarkable half-sister Anoushka Shankar (see her in “Concert for George” and I think you’ll expect to hear much more from her in the future). Third, that the influence of a gifted man, Ravi Shankar, can be seen in different ways throughout the world, and that includes his influence on popular music in the ’60’s. Finally, what a different world it is from the one I was born into.

  • Merv

    Hmmm. Ms. Jones. You really have to have to wierd taste in music to like something that is as bland and dry as her music. It has no beat and no rythm to it. It is the kind of music that bores you to death and makes you blue all day. I still can’t understand how in world she won the award over Michelle Branch. Now there is a girl that can sing and make you love music again. I am sorry Ms. Jones for the harsh words but your music just depresses me. The world is too much of a sad place and having to listen to her songs on the radio just does not help it.