Early in his career, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz developed a style that was equal parts clever and aloof, using reggae and rap influences to create a sound that felt very emblematic of the San Diego culture from which he emerged. In the wake of his hit “I’m Yours,” a tribute to monogamy, his songs have grown ever more tender—paeans to the wonders of love and happiness. And on his fifth album, Yes!, Mraz has turned his unending optimism toward even the most dour of subjects: breakups, death, and the corporate destruction of nature. The songs are almost indistinguishable from each another, each one a delicate take on the most agreeable facts of life, ornamented by lush instrumentation and affectionate vocal arrangements. Mraz’s joyful outlook works best when it’s placed in an uptempo context, and Yes! makes it apparent that he still has a gift for writing catchy melodies. “Hello, You Beautiful Thing” features some well-orchestrated harmonizing from the all-girl group Raining Jane, while “Everywhere” includes pulsating background vocals and multi-syllabic wordplay: “I’m deep within the molecules of the air that you breathe/I’m the subatomic supersonic spaces in between.” But most of the album consists of mild tributes to unobjectionable pleasures: “You Can Rely on Me” is a reminder that “You can rely on me, yes you can!” In a recent interview with The Advocate, Mraz spoke of his desire for inclusivity: “Right at the end [of the songwriting process] I ask, ’Can any human get on board with this? Can anyone from any nation, any demographic, can they as a human being feel the humanity in this song?” Unfortunately, his wide-lens worldview leaves Yes! feeling like the musical equivalent of a G-rated sitcom.
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: