A long time coming, Jason Mraz’s latest album Love is a Four Letter Word at least afforded fans a few years of bracing preparation before the onslaught of rose-tinted lyrics hit our speakers in official and generously deluxe 2CD format. Kicking off with The Freedom Song, the listener’s hit with helplessly happy sound-waves acting as a first assault to disarm any cynicism carried into the vicinity. The vibe is gospel, parts of a horn section I have no business knowing about wade in and images of bobbing heads fly by.
As the tracks progress, country elements emerge, a hippy motif is well and truly thrust out in the open – but it’s Jason Mraz; that’s just who he is. He’s happy. He’s appeared on Sesame Street promoting the virtues of being outdoors (to the tune of I’m Yours) and now 5/6, although darkly jazzy, still somehow feels reminiscent of Fraggle Rock. He’s kid-friendly but we can’t damn him for that.
…it’s Jason. He’s so evidently full of love and happiness, almost to a debilitating standard.
The first single released from the album is I Won’t Give Up, and when I first heard it, unfortunately, I heard Westlife. By this point, after the initial barrage of happy clapping, he’s perhaps gone that step too far. There’s no question X Factor are cuing this song up for a future year’s Christmas single. But again, it’s Jason. He’s so evidently full of love and happiness, almost to a debilitating standard. Yes, his lyrics are dodgy, but it may be forgiven because he really seems that “blissed and blessed”, the deluded fool.
Everything is Sound, with my good will towards Mraz now stretched to its limits, brings out the chorus of la la’s, unforgivable as that already is, encased inside a ‘ha-la-la-lejuah’ repetition. As with the rest of the record, though, its upbeat core is all too clear and I can’t say I hate it; although I might hate myself for it. Frank D Fixer is about Jason’s good-life-granddad and calls for the lyric “What happened to the family farm?” to be sung, and has joined that collection of lines I’ll forever be in awe of when sung in all sincerity.
…for his raw talent the deluxe edition’s extra features will always be worth a listen.
But finally, onto CD2 where we find the good stuff: Jason is undoubtedly at his best when performing live, with his effortless stage repartee, impromptu jokes and light-hearted improvisations all jostling under an umbrella of beautiful guitar and faultless vocals. I’ve no doubt his on-stage musical mate Toca Rivera plays a huge part in the professional sheen here.
Though three of the five songs on this CD are merely versions of those on the first, two are gems in their own right and show Jason off for the talent he is without all that sickly sincerity heard on the radio. First of these, and my personal favourite, is You Fckn Did It. It’s a fast-talking rapping melody that highlights Rivera and Mraz’s synchronicity and musical ability – and the crowd sound none too displeased with it either. It’s Jason at his best with its quirks all in the words, proving undisputedly his worth as the one and only Mr. A-Z.
…hang up the cynicism for half an hour, plant an avocado and embrace that four-lettered word love…
I never knew you is the final track, introduced with plenty of banter which the crowd dutifully lap up. It’s the second recommendation I would make from the album, and probably the last. Certainly the first CD can be overlooked, but for his raw talent the deluxe edition’s extra features will always be worth a listen. So hang up the cynicism for half an hour, plant an avocado and embrace that four-lettered word love for Jason Mraz.
Image courtesy of Atlantic Records