50 Best Albums of 2016

Beyoncé smashed the system, Chance the Rapper counted his blessings, David Bowie left a powerful goodbye and more

Norah Jones, 'Day Breaks'
50
46/50

46. Norah Jones, 'Day Breaks'

"If we're all free, why does it seem/We just can't be?" muses Norah Jones in "Flipside," a swinging upbeat anomaly on her first "jazz" album since 2002 breakthrough Come Away With Me. Inspired, in all likelihood, by Roberta Flack's sassy 1969 version of Les McCann's "Compared to What," Jones's tune maintains the emotional and political attitude with more ambiguity. Titled after a bubbling track about deep loneliness, Jones's album feels like an ozone-charged pause before a virulent cloudburst. At 37, her voice has become more nuanced without losing an iota of cool, and her Americana excursions inform a splendid horn-driven cover of Neil Young's "Don't Be Denied." R.G.

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