The Harbinger Online

Jason Mraz’s Album is Mellow but Mediocre

]I wanted to l-o-v-e it.

I wanted to love it like I loved the energetic, upbeat songs that Jason Mraz used to create by the dozens. I wanted to love it like I loved “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.” I wanted to love it like I loved the nerdy white guy raps that Mraz spit out in the early days of his career. I wanted an album that would make me feel crazy happy as I sped down 71st street to Baskin Robbins to escape the warm weather. I really, really wanted to love it.

If you are determined to love Jason Mraz’s fifth and newest album, “Love is a Four Letter Word”, my advice would be to go into it without any expectations. Let me be clear — this album is not by any means bad. It occasionally provides hits like “Everything Is Sound,”  which is so catchy it’s impossible to not to keep humming it all day. It’s a good album, and maybe it’ll grow on me the more I listen. It’s just not quite what I was hoping for.

Mraz’s music is known for the happiness and positivity you’d associate with any avocado-farm-owning California hippie. He’s been able to keep that same feeling of relaxed elation in his music since his big break, “The Remedy,” in 2002. And for the most part, that feeling is still there. But what this album lacked that his others had was excitement. I was looking forward to lighthearted, fun songs that I knew Mraz was capable of from past album hits like “Geek In the Pink” and “Curbside Prophet”. Though this album feels quietly, peacefully content, it didn’t deliver the pick-me-up I wanted or expected.

There are, of course, a few things that we can expect from Mraz that he delivers immediately. He opens up with “The Freedom Song,” in which he recreates the ecstatic energy of his past albums with a brass band and soulful backup singers. For the most part, Mraz is able to continue with the relaxed, laid-back sound that has gathered him so many fans. I only noticed a couple of variations from the sound of his previous albums, like a bit more of a country twang in “The Woman I Love,” whose uncreative and repetitive lyrics make it worth skipping. A better change can be found in “5/6,” which opens with a sound almost reminiscent of the Black Keys. It could fool you for something you’d hear in the background of a jazz club, until Mraz brings the acoustic guitar back in.

Mraz wraps up the album with his signature sense of ease and exuberance, with his final song, “The World As I See It.” The first time I heard it, I was sure that this was my favorite on the album. I was thrilled to finally hear the sweet and wonderfully apparent delight that Mraz takes in his music that was so present in older albums. I was reminded why I liked Mraz so much in the first place — he is an expert at mixing the soothing and the joyful into a sound that is entirely his own. With the rest of the album sounding like a collection of lullabies, “The World As I See It” was the only song I really heard the old Mraz in.

For those of you hoping for an album full of poppy, exciting hits like “The Dynamo of Volition” off Mraz’s previous album, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This album definitely included a few catchy tunes, but none of them have the same carefree sound that was prevalent in older albums. They all have the potential to be hits, but they’re just too sweet and sentimental to be something you would listen to to get pumped before a big game.

You’re not going to hear Mraz unleashing the optimism and unadulterated energy of his past albums in this one. But if you’re in the mood for a great background to a comfortable, super lazy day relaxing in Prairie Village, this album is sure to satisfy the granola-eating flower child inside you.

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Hannah Ratliff

Senior Hannah Ratliff is an A&E Page Editor for the Shawnee Mission East Harbinger. This is her second semester on staff. She enjoys visiting new places, watching action movies and being with her dogs. Read Full »

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