Starting to feel that ache for the idyllic, sunshiny perfection of happy summer days? Luckily, Jason Mraz has delivered the audio equivalent of summer bliss with his lemonade-sweet musings about life and love. The king of carefree is back, and his newest album, “Love Is a Four Letter Word,” drips with the mellow, uber-optimistic vibe that fans love.
This album is Mraz’s fourth studio release and follows his 2008 album, which boasted the Grammy-nominated single, “I’m Yours.” This wildly charming reggae-lite anthem, which still frequently graces the radio waves (most recently in the form of a remix featuring Lil Wayne and Jah Cure), was clearly an inspiration for the this latest album, which layers a subtle world-music texture over the classically blissed-out folk pop sound of Mr. A-Z.
This journey through Mellowville opens with “The Freedom Song,” an up-tempo treat backed by strong brass and drum riffs that give the track a fun, jazzy feel. The only song on the album which Mraz didn’t write himself, this opener is a cover of a song written and performed by the obscure band Luc & the Lovingtons.
Starting with the second track, “Living in the Moment,” things get decidedly more chill as the laid-back musical stylings of Mraz shine through. Opening with whistling, this track practically oozes sunshine with its upbeat strumming and a clippy, hihat-happy drum beat. As the title suggests, this track explores the mantra of living in the moment. “Living in the moment / Living our life / Easy and breezy” sums up the sentiments of the song, which include letting go of past pains and embracing the empowering present. This song is a breezy, feel-good anthem which sets the pace at a pleasantly low gear.
Those of a cynical persuasion should steer clear of this latest Mraz creation, as he lays on the whimsy extra thick in his lyricism. The corniness reaches a dangerous high in songs such as “Everything Is Sound.” Here, Mraz waxes poetic: “Let’s sing to be happy, to feel things, to communicate, be heard / We sing out to protest, and to project, and to harmonize with birds.” If that isn’t sap-tastic enough, the chorus features more than one “La la la la,” a “Hallelujah” and the proclamation that “We’re all connected now.” Mraz’s hippie side bleeds blatantly tie-dye here, and again in “Frank D. Fixer,” his heartfelt but hokey tribute to his grandfather, the down-tempo “The World as I See It,” and “5/6” (named for its time signature) which has a lovely jazz vibe but delves awkwardly into child psychology, to name a few. That being said, he backs these moments with such strong musicianship and charisma that it’s worth letting it slide.
There are a few standout songs on the album which showcase Mraz’s killer songwriting chops and his affinity for creating a deliciously bohemian sound. “93 Million Miles” is a reassuring song about home that artfully tugs at the heartstrings. Another is the timpani-driven “Hidden Track” (or “I’m Coming Over”) which is a sweet confession of lingering love for an old flame and features Mraz’s to-die-for falsetto. A clear standout is “I Won’t Give Up,” the first released single (which peaked at #8 on the Billboard’s Hot 100). It is a simply beautiful ballad, backed by the honeyed tones of Mraz’s guitar and voice.
“Love” isn’t an earth-shattering listen, but Mraz nails the infectiously kick-back, easy and breezy vibe as only he can. While it’s true the love platitudes are laid on a bit thick at times, when it comes down to it, this album is all about sharing the love, which Mraz – with all of his hammock-strung charm – does wonderfully.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5