If, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously claimed, American lives have no second acts, where does this leave 24-year-old Norah Jones ? Sell 17 million of any record, much less a debut CD of sleepy pop ballads, and in walks the eight-hundred-pound gorilla with the “What next?” sign around his neck. Make Come Away With Me II and you’re pandering; try a big production number and it’s all gone to your head. So what does this gorgeous Dallas-bred singer-pianist do? Punt. Though doubtlessly fussed over, Feels Like Home (Blue Note) was recorded in weeks instead of months, and it sounds like it. Home isn’t a radical departure, but it does feel different from its elegant predecessor. To Jones’s credit, apart from a pointless duet with Dolly Parton, there’s no overt nod to her superstar status. And a few songs, like “In the Morning” and “Above Ground,” flirt promisingly with R&B and almost find some funk. Almost. But just like last time, the rest is all so damn polite—organic, keyboard-driven pop. It’s nothing that a bit of energy wouldn’t cure, but Jones’s beguiling voice never strays from her comfort zone, and not a single tempo breaks a sweat. Rock and roll has been blamed for everything from Satanism to mass murder, but this numbing music makes you want to retire early.

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