Jason Mraz | Love Is a Four Letter Word (Atlantic)

 

jason mrazEach of us is entitled to that one person who is willing to let us explore the world and find ourselves.

 

 

I’ve been a fan of Jason Mraz since We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. I didn’t realize until now that We Sing was his fourth album, which catapulted him into an international whirlwind of success. This fifth offering, Love Is a Four Letter Word, personifies love in all of its many forms.

This album contains a slew of heartfelt, emotionally uplifting songs that explore both the goods and bads of love—or as Mraz put it: “What one does in love to make it work/ and what one does in love when it’s time to let go.”

Recorded at Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Sound with producer Joe Chiccarelli (White Stripes, Christina Perri, My Morning Jacket) and a lineup of all-star session musicians, the album’s clever arrangements and rich musical textures cushion Mraz’s pure tenor voice.

The first single, “I Won’t Give Up,” has to be my favorite tune of the entire album because of its honesty and vulnerability to and for the one you love. Set against acoustic sounds, Mraz proclaims:

“Well, I won’t give up on us even if the skies get rough/ I’m giving you all my love; I’m still looking up/And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating I’ll be here patiently waiting to see what you find/ ‘Cause even the stars they burn; some even fall to the earth/ We’ve got a lot to learn, but God knows we’re worth it/ No, I won’t give up.”

It’s evident the freeness that love bestows upon us, if we let it. He makes you believe that each of us is entitled to that one person who is willing to let us explore the world and find ourselves without having to sacrifice their love. The two happenings can peacefully coexist. “It’s about the experience I had with someone in which I had to go dark and let go of a lot things in order to see that I had everything already,” Mraz has said.

I don’t want to be someone who walks away so easily; I’m here to stay, and make the difference that I can make/Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts we’ve got. Yeah, we’ve got a lot at stake/ And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend for us to work, we didn’t break/ We didn’t burn/ We had to learn, how to bend, without the world caving in/ I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am.

Showcasing a variety of moods, the album strikes a balance of the seriousness and silliness of love. Mraz’s inspiration of love and its indefinable meaning ties all 12 songs together. His desire to define love took him on a journey that created the leading aforementioned single, the movingly reflective and hushed song of longing “In Your Hands,” as well as “93 Million Miles,” a track in which Mraz finds peace in the realization that you can feel at home in the world, no matter where you are.

Always a fan of a good, upbeat tune, Mraz delivers such a churchy appreciative song with “Everything Is Sound.” He sings: “Let’s sing to be happy, to feel things, to communicate and be heard” and that’s exactly what this tune is all about: enjoying every bit of life’s simple pleasures.

Other highlights include the horn-driven opener “Freedom Song,” which was written by Seattle singer-songwriter Luc Reynaud; the earthy story-song “Frank D Fixer,” inspired by Mraz’s grandfather; the melodic and revisiting growth to “Beautiful Mess” from Mraz’s last album, “The Woman I Love.” In this track, he vows to accept the woman he adores just the way she is simply because he loves her. “I don’t wish to change you. You got it under control./ You wake up each day different another reason for me to keep holding on/ I’m not attached to anyway you’re showing up I’m just going to love you like the woman I love.”

“Who’s Thinking About You Now” poses a simple question transformed into a heartfelt answer to what many of us ask on occasion, wondering if he or she still gives us a bit a mental space in which they long to be there for us and hoping that we, too, are wanting that same thing.

Before concluding the album, Mraz pens “Be Honest,” which has to be the most important song on Love Is a Four Letter Word in which love can totally be defined: “Think of this song as a promise you can do what you want/ If you decide you want to move into a new stage, deleting me from pages in your mission statement/ My love is unconditional, make no mistake/ I don’t ask for much just be honest with me.”

Love is one four-letter word that strikes such a powerful chord of emotions. From the happy to the sad to the in between, it’s a word with such a deep, layered feeling. As each story is told on Love is a Four Letter Word, Mraz shows a culmination of growth from the last album to now. This record is such an ode to love and its many forms and feelings of current love, past love, future love, and last, but certainly not least, that unforgettable love.

“I want them to be able to go deep, but not get stuck there,” Mraz said. “I want them to have sunshine, but not get sunburned. This album represents my view of the world and the realization that I am an important part of it in how the choices I make affect other people. But a little bit of love goes a long way, especially on a planet crowded with individuals struggling with seven billion different versions of human triumph and human suffering. When I remember to simply enjoy being where I am, it makes a world of difference.”

It’s that crossroads where music, love, and hope meets with Love Is a Four Letter Word that makes this album such a winner. It makes you think, hope, long, and look forward to better days—just like love does. A-| Ashley White

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