Sunday, April 22, 2012

Love Is A Four-Letter Word

Many of us have been waiting anxiously for the release of Jason Mraz's new album, and I finally got to listen to it a couple of days ago.

Yes, he's my favourite musician - and will remain so as long as I still draw breath :) - but the effect his music has on me never fails to surprise.

Although We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things hit stores in 2008, fans were spared withdrawal symptoms thanks to constant tidbits these past 4 years, e.g. an acoustic version of WSWDWST, the Beautiful Mess - Live On Earth CD/DVD, intermittent spurts of new singles, plus the Life Is Good and Live Is A Four-Letter Word EPs.

Some may call these crafty marketing stunts designed to empty pockets, but in the age of digital downloads, one song may cost only 10 cents, so you do the math. :)

If anything, the albums highlight Jason's sheer artistry. How else can you describe 5 versions of a song, all of which are clearly different, yet equally awesome? I've attended 3 gigs and own every single concert CD/DVD I could get my hands on, and never tire of his performances.

This review of Love Is A Four-Letter Word is preliminary. I've listened to it straight through a couple of times, but am now hitting repeat on a number of tracks to dig a little deeper. It usually takes more than 10 replays before I'm able to identify real favourites, but here's what I thought after round 1: ABSOLUTELY SUBLIME. :D

One of the reasons I derive such great pleasure from Jason's music is that I've been lucky enough to follow his career from the very beginning. ( Thank you again, G, for introducing me to Waiting For My Rocket To Come. :))
Many musicians crash and burn after 5 years, but Jason keeps getting better a whole decade after his debut.

My general impression of Love is that it's more introspective. The trademark upbeat JM ditties are still present, but the slow and sweet melodic ballads are especially prominent here, and only one piece can be considered just a tad on the unconventional side. Compare this to WSWDWST, which featured The Dynamo of Volition, Only Human and Coyotes, which aren't exactly singalong-friendly.

Not that I'm complaining, of course! My admiration for Jason has reached the stage where I'm able to digest anything he sings. But after 10 years, this is without a doubt the JM album I've been wishing for.

His maturity shines through in many aspects, but most notably in the lyrics and musical arrangements. Certain melodies may sound deceptively simple, but then you wonder why no-one else has come up with similar tunes!

An early fave - sure to be a crowd pleaser at concerts! - is Living In The Moment ( track #2 ). Jason loves to share positive messages with fans, and the lyrics are guaranteed to put a spring in anyone's step:

"I will not waste my days / Making up all kinds of ways
To worry about all the things / That will not happen to me

I'm letting myself off the hook for things I've done
I let my past go past / And now I'm having more fun
I'm letting go of the thoughts / That do not make me strong
And I believe this way can be the same for everyone

Living in the moment / living my life
Easy and breezy / With peace in my mind
With peace in my heart / Peace in my soul
Wherever I'm going, I'm already home"

I can already picture the scene at his June 29 Gardens by the Bay gig - 12,000 fans belting the song with Jason, waving whatever glow-y objects we have available ( gadgets, lighters, etc ). You can bet I'm going to sing my heart out! :)

Another current fave: The Woman I Love ( track #3 ). I'm familiar with the 'live' version, but the studio recording moved me immensely. As always, Jason has a knack for noticing a relationship's subtle nuances and little moments, putting beautiful words to a gorgeous tune to produce an instant classic.

To complete the hat trick, next comes I Won't Give Up ( track #4 ), which Jason readily admits he wrote for Tristan Prettyman, a long-time love whom he was engaged to for a time before it was called off. Again, I've heard this before, but for some reason, the album recording reduced me to a teary mess. I was initially shocked by the reaction, but also realized how far my journey with Jason has progressed. I've never connected with his music so deeply before. What a breakthrough! :D

Other worthy contenders: 93 Million Miles ( poignant ), Frank D. Fixer ( outstanding ), In Your Hands ( intensely romantic ) and Be Honest ( I liken it to seeing 3 rainbows all at once :)).

Yes, Love Is A Four-Letter Word is phenomenal! Sensational! Brilliant! Which is why I'm going to try my best to memorize all the lyrics and heartily participate in the mass karaoke sessions at the show. ( I'm very bad at this, but there's always Google on my mobile for easy reference. :))

In 2009, when Jason was nominated for a few Grammys but didn't win, I predicted that his luck would quickly change, and it did ( he picked up 2 awards in 2009, in addition to being inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame ).

For 2012, I have 2 more: that Love deserves and will win the Album Of The Year Grammy, and that Jason will seriously consider writing a Broadway musical.

I also hope he will duet with Sara Bareilles someday. They're perfect for each other. :)

Thanks for reading, and if you're going to the June 29 gig, I look forward to seeing you there! It's gonna be awesome!

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