Are Jason Mraz fans ready for a change of pace? His previous effort, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. (2008), was full of hits and pop radio songs that were screaming to be played on top 40 stations and covered on every reality television singing competition. Remember “Lucky” with Colbie Caillat and the hugeness of “I’m Yours”? New album Love Is A Four Letter Word is not like that at all. Singles “I Won’t Give Up” and “Freedom Song” are weak in comparison and haven’t broken much ground thus far.
This alone is a statement about the direction Mraz took with Love Is A Four Letter Word. It was reported that the album was recorded between volunteer sessions across the globe and also noted that since the record prior was so successful, more effort was placed into the construction of the album rather than the pressure to become a commercial hit. This explains two things: the long hair Mraz has been sporting lately and the toned-down vibe we get from listening to the album.
Love Is A Four Letter Word has some really strong material within it. “The World As I See It” is particularly inspiring and full of wisdom and zest, while main single “I Won’t Give Up” is powerfully charming and rhythmically pleasing. All of the songs are easy to hear, which is a genuine comfort. Jason Mraz is a guy we could listen to all day.
Here, Mraz delivers his most individually expressive output in his career, writing from the soul and delivering with the utmost sincerity. He’s clearly achieved the greatest confidence both artistically and personally it seems, enough to spill whatever’s on his mind and put his feelings on paper without inhibitions. Listening to Love Is A Four Letter Word is like hearing spoken word poetry at times, so raw and blunt that it can be shocking.
Unfortunately for everyone, much of Love Is A Four Letter Word can be described as “plain.”
Mraz actually sounds quite generic singer-songwriter in many of his songs where his main intention was just to express things and tell stories. Many of the songs blend together in alikeness and fall between the cracks of the album.
Mraz’s soft and beachy vocals are complemented by the more stripped composition of the new Love Is A Four Letter Word. Though it might oversimplify the already-tame aspect of this man’s music making, there’s no arguing the impact a less electronic feel has on audiences due to the way it shapes Mraz’s voice. It’s just so easy to listen to and it can melt fans who linger on every word.
Love Is A Four Letter Word’s Deluxe release features acoustic versions of several of the songs on the album. You’re advised to splurge on it, and you’ll know why when you hear it. The music is beautiful when it is left to such nakedness, and it exposes the tiny flaws in everything that consequently beautify the picture at large.
Perhaps that’s why the album title was so ambiguous. Love truly is a four-letter word, and so is the word “gnat.” So what?