Jason Mraz has always struck me as a very nice but very boring individual. He’s the sort of dude you describe as “nice.” He’s got a head full of decent ideas about world peace and helping people across the street and all that, but when it comes to being interesting or compelling in any way he comes up short.
The “I’m Yours” singer continues to mark the borders of bland with Love is a Four Letter Word, his latest outing. This is his fourth studio album and the follow-up to 2008’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
Mraz has a sort of pleasant appeal for those sorts of music fans into bands like Train and artists like Jack Johnson. It’s great for sitting around fire pits at the beach with a bunch of vegan surfers and it probably makes a decent soundtrack for those who hang around coffee shops with various Apple products arranged near their soy lattes.
The Virginia-born singer-songwriter feels like a starry-eyed Californian throughout most of the sunny Love is a Four Letter Word.
“The Freedom Song” opens things with a lively gait and a catchy horn melody, but the “Get you that freedom” lyrics simply ring hollow. The song is about feeling free because you’re feeling joyful. Your mileage may vary.
The cheese factor is turned up on “Living in the Moment,” a track that has Mraz sing about how he won’t waste his life worrying and how he has peace in his heart and soul. It’s a perfectly nice sentiment but an utterly dreary tune.
Whether it’s the blandness of “Everything is Sound” or the irritating and doe-eyed nature of “The World as I See It,” Mraz’s simplicity will either be impressive or irritating.
There’s little new or innovative going on with Love is a Four Letter Word and Mraz’s easy answers can prove cheesy and grating, especially when he ventures through stories of his granddad (“Frank D. Fixer”) with a country-influenced “aw shucks.”
It’s already apparent that Mraz’s songcraft works for many people, so I’m probably one of the odd ones out when I consider his “brightness” to be nearly insufferable. Love is a Four Letter Word is his highest-charting record to date. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.