Review Summary: Flatfooted and cyclical, Mraz's latest offering also serves as his epitaph.
Lumped into the all-encompassing category of mainstream pop-rock is our prime specimen here, Mr. A to Z. While this classification initially seems to spell doom, Mraz has been able to successfully prove his mettle at the art of writing music that’s simple for those who desire for it to be simple, as well as complex for those looking for something a little deeper. All throughout his career we’ve seen him blossom, witnessed him evolve into the inherently likeable fellow that he’s become today. And as likeable as himself, his music has always presented itself in such a vivacious manner that it truly brought out the best of him. Mraz has always expressed himself through his music; while he had the occasional smash hit that was universally relatable much of the rest of his discography told many a personal tale of the man behind the guitar. These were the staples, the hooks, the glue that bound Mraz’s credibility to his sleeve. And as the number of his albums grew, so did the number of skills he seemed to possess. Sure, we all knew he could concoct a ferociously catchy pop tune when needed, but we’ve never quite experienced the suited-up, classy undertone that embodies his last couple of albums. In regard to this versatility, the true question is if Jason Mraz will be able to persevere through 2012, the year that’s brought so many mainstream artists to a screeching halt.
The results are much less satisfactory than hoped for, and one can’t help but wonder where the hooks arewhere our most cherished storyteller went. Love Is a Four Letter Word is gimmicky in every sense of the word, and it attempts to lure in as many listeners as it can through sappy and vapid lyrics. No effort whatsoever is made to distinguish the record from the rest of the mainstream cloud, and this fact colors Jason Mraz in the same hue as that of his contemporaries. The gleeful, youth-filled songwriter we’ve all come to love through the years has been replaced by a lanky fellow stumbling over his own clichés, a black sheep colouring itself white haphazardly. Brisk strides are had towards individuality in the album’s runtime, such as ‘The Freedom Song’ and ‘Be Honest’, but these moments are hard to even recognize because of how much the rest of the album homogenizes its more poignant ideas. It’s scary how challenging it is to recall a highlight after hearing the album in its entirety, considering how the more powerful tracks are sandwiched in between the sloppy ones. Other tracks like ‘5/6’ suffer from a frustrating sense of gimmick. It feels too easy to imagine Mraz plotting the hooks in the studio - “Oh, a weird time signature will entice new fans!", he proclaims - and he’s about right until the song’s flatfooted and cyclical nature sizzles out any persisting hope.
Much of the rest of the album limps along, always succeeding in tempering off momentum as soon as it builds. And while it’s obvious what age group Love Is a Four Letter Word is targeting, the even scarier truth to face about Jason Mraz’s latest foray into the mainstream is that I’m not even sure the Starbucks-plagued youth of America have an interest in the uniformly vapid approach taken here. Let’s face it – while Mraz is spending his preciously middle-aged days ironing the kinks out of his meticulously produced material, his former fans are yearning for something fresh from Mr. A to Z, something that is not found here. After all, so much of his credibility can be pinned down to his willingness to go outside the box and pull an unexpected move. Rather than going full-speed ahead with this tradition, Mraz is being pulled under the shadow of his youthful self. Here’s to a prompt retrieval, but in the meantime I think I’ll spin some of his live material instead.
Really good review and happy 40! I'm sorry to say I've never really read one of your reviews before but you're an excellent writer and I'll definitely be looking into them from now on. I never really listened to anything Mraz has put out before and this has convinced me not to start now!
The man's songs make me wanna kill babies so that they will never have to subject themselves to this lovey-dovey music (this is why i would never rate any mraz albums, lotta my friends are huge fans though)
good review man, you wrote a negative review but it definitely seems like you both know/love the artist and aren't just ranting and complaining, pos
I actually bought his first album because I thought the title was clever and the cover was cool. Also I saw it on this hot girl's coffee table and I guess thought she'd let me touch her vag if I was into Jason Mraz too. Anyway, it has 2 good songs and a bunch of really shit ones. I'm assuming this isn't much better.
pwalcher, thanks a ton man. I tried to make the review as balanced as possible; what's the point of a negative review if it comes across as hot-tempered? I rarely write negative reviews, so I probably was harsher on this one than it deserves. But I've found that the more music you give a chance, you more impatient you become. *shrugs*
And Adrian, girls really do swoon over Mr. Mraz. I'd say it at least used to be for good reason though, as I really enjoy his older material.