Even before hearing the songs, before reading the title, the album cover is an accurate giveaway about the theme of Jason Mraz‘s fourth album: Love. Love is no stranger to being the theme of Jason Mraz songs. Tracks from his first album centred on the topic like You And I Both and what remains his greatest song On Love, In Sadness. But Jason Mraz used to also be playfully cocky in his songs like Curbside Prophet and Geek In The Pink, where he suggested that his girl could “take your toys out of your drawers then/I ain’t coming home/I don’t need that attention.”
On Jason’s fourth album Love Is A Four Letter Word, the playfulness is absent and is instead replaced by sentimental lyrics and melodies that fit right in with the subject matter, as cheesy as it is. As a result, the album confines Jason to being an adult contemporary artist rather than the singer/songwriter that used to fuse elements of pop, rock, folk, hip-hop and reggae with guitars and horns aplenty.
With Jason’s last album, 2008′s We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, Jason evolved his sound a bit to incorporate more personal events of his childhood into his lyrics. While he was showing signs then of growing maturity compared to his first two albums, there was still his signature blend of all of the above without sacrificing the usual fun that Jason had the tendency to put into his songs. All while still offering up mushy love songs like hit mega-smash I’m Yours.
The first single I Won’t Give Up follows in the footsteps of that record-breaking single I’m Yours but with heavier lyrical undertones that serve as the highlight of the album. In the case of both songs, Jason presents them with simplicity but does it in a way that is difficult to replicate on a similar level: “And when you’re needing your space/To do some navigating/I’ll be here patiently waiting/To see what you find” are lyrics that are simple but still very Jason-esque.
Parts of the record have a breeziness that gives it an easy-to-digest sound perfect for summer nights, making the timing of the release perhaps appropriate. Living In The Moment and The Woman I Love, specifically, might not be interesting in the way a standard Mraz song would be but playing it on the back deck in August would fit the situation.
To go from Waiting For My Rocket To Come to Love Is A Four Letter Word is a journey that ends in mostly uninteresting and sometimes bland songs. There are similarities between each of Jason’s records but as he advances with each one, he’s leaving behind aspects of his music that perhaps are lost with a growing sense of maturity. What made Jason stand out from the John Mayers and Jack Johnson‘s of the mid 2000s are decidedly removed to soon blend him with the Seals, Michael Bubles and James Blunts. Seemingly gone are the days of fast-lipped, folk-hop, pop/rock songs that would make your mother blush: here to stay are corny love ballads that even she might pass on.
1. The Freedom Song
2. Living In The Moment
3. The Woman I Love
4. I Won’t Give Up
6. Everything Is Sound (La La)
7. 93 Million Miles
8. Frank D. Fixer
9. Who’s Thinking About You Now
10. In Your Hands
11. Be Honest [featuring Inara George]
12. The World As I See It