'Look For The Good' Review: Jason Mraz's album is flushed with hope and a Bob Marley-inspired reggae flavour
The essence of Mraz's music has always been about feel-good vibes and his new album has plenty to say to a world reeling from the effects of 2020
It should come as no surprise that the multi-platinum-selling singer Jason Mraz chose the phrase ‘Look For The Good’ as the title of his seventh studio album, which released on June 19. The Grammy award-winning artiste's repertoire is replete with feel-good, joyous odes tinged with Brazilian vibes and the essence of Mraz's music has always been about positivity, compassion, and love. 'Look For The Good' has been a mantra of sorts for the 'Remedy' singer in recent times, and his latest reggae-meets-pop offering has plenty to say to a world still reeling from the effects of 2020.
As a welcome departure from his last album ‘Know’, Mraz’s deep-rooted love for reggae and its associated lifestyle has seeped into the twelve tracks on this album. Riddled with fun, bouncy grooves yet a heartfelt, deep-rooted sound, the listener will find Easy Star Records founder Michael Goldwasser’s producer's stamp all over this new record. Alongside Mraz’s regular musicians, Goldwasser put together a nine-piece band who recorded the album over a period of two weeks at Mraz’s ranch aka The Mranch.
“We made a bunch of demos and sent the arrangements to the musicians, and the first time we sat in a circle to play these songs it was magical. As soon as we started playing it worked. Everything worked. The lyrics flew right through. It started out as an experiment, but was beyond our expectations of what we thought this thing could sound like and become,” recounts an effusive Jason Mraz.
The title track and album opener 'Look For The Good' is incredibly relevant for today’s times. “There’s a lot going on in the world, and it’s crazy,” Jason says. “But instead of worrying about it and adding more craziness to it, let’s look for the good. How can we lift each other up in times we feel are the craziest we’ve ever lived in?” Flush with hope, positivity, and a Bob Marley-on-the-beach reggae flavor, this track pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album.
This uplifting number also enthralled the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, who ended up using the track as the backbone of her Food For Heroes campaign, an effort to help provide hot meals to NYC frontline medical workers. It's a serendipitous gift for Mraz, considering one of the song's themes is about finding true-blue heroes among us. "Yeah, look out for all the heroes in your neighborhood / Look for the good / Life sure would be sweeter if everybody would."
‘Make Love’ as the title implies, is a song about making love the more active choice in your life. Drenched in the utopic ideologies of the flower-power movement, the song underlines the need for positive reinforcement and compassionate understanding. "I keep my pockets light / Destination in sight / I keep my actions elevated to compassionate heights," sings Mraz, along with lyrics like "Breathe & release the binds you’re holding and free your mind / Step back from the drama and observe it / Draw the energy in & conserve it / Every pain is a lesson for the learning / Mother Nature didn’t make us to be murdering."
With 'My Kind', Mraz sings about the many-hued facets of humankind and that music means different things to different people- "We are united by our differences / Our different kinds of interests." Regarding the latter, this could be Mraz's admission that this reggae record might have strayed far from the coffee-house music that people usually associate with him. "Some like it reggae / Some like it smooth jazz / Some like to slow things down / Some like to shake that ass."
‘Good Old Daze’ is a breezy, chill track about spending an entire day just being yourself. With no alarm clocks, phones, and societal pressure, Mraz is telling us that life is best enjoyed when nothing happens at all. This track oozes with relaxed tones and is great if you want to enter a much more positive mind-frame. "Actually I can’t remember when or where the heck I am / But I’m doing the best I can."
Comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish accompanies Mraz on ‘You Do You’, which would easily be a fan-favorite with its socially-conscious commentary. Over a groovy, afro-beat styled reggae track, Haddish raps, "Wait a minute lemme STAND UP for my girls / We never gonna quit ‘til we truly rule the world / Free to make my choices & raise my voice up / Tell me where my sisters at & make some noise" The feminist movement may have just found itself its next catchy power-anthem.
With ‘Wise Woman’, Mraz sings an ode to his favorite natural healer, our green lady Mary Jane aka marijuana. Alluding to its many therapeutic and compassion-inducing properties, Mraz seems to have unwittingly written a great song for the legalization movement. "She’s a green garden goddess / A sage of ancient ways / Cultivating patience / Earth has her own pace / She’s a real wise woman / A midwife & a teacher / A high vibration healer dealing herbal remedies," goes the funky track.
‘Take The Music’ reinforces Mraz's love of reggae music in a whole new way. "With the help of vibration through tone and rhythm/ The human is forgiven and the soul gets back to living/ Returns us all to our natural condition/ Turns up the levels on the mind’s inner visions/ It plays through the space to where you are and regulates the beating of the broken hearts/ A sensation in everybody’s pants/ Which is why when there is music, life becomes a dance." You needn’t look further than this song to know that Mraz is deeply in love with those bouncy, smooth, island grooves.
Jamaican reggae icon Sister Carol’s turn on ‘Time Out’ is quintessentially and unmistakably reggae. It's a song about realizing that sometimes we all get to the point where we deserve a much-needed time-out. “And now I’m hoping to move along / Away from any voice that makes me think / I am wrong I need focus / No hocus pocus / I’m gonna throw my freaking phone in the ocean," sings Carol, a sentiment we’ve all felt time and time again. Advocacy for the green herb is ramped up in this song with lines like, "4:20 is the time – time to take a time out," further cementing the reggae vibes.
‘DJ FM AM JJASON’ has Mraz singing his own theme song. "My DJ name DJ FM AM JJASON / Like the Goddesses & Gods, I know my spirit is ancient / My game moves slow / At natural paces / Remembering to breathe is my meditation / My pen is my sword, I draw blood on these pages / I make love not war because peace is courageous" sings Mraz with poetic penmanship. Mraz sketches an apt self-portrait of who he is and the essence of his music as he adds, "I send you my love / Around the clock (don’t stop)."
The child-like simplicity of ‘Hearing Double’ has Mraz experimenting with the simple technique of repeating words to create a unique rhythm. This wordplay-friendly song is essentially about having one’s senses impaired by the object of their affection. "Love might be no trouble-trouble at all / But love might make you hear double-double if you fall / Love might be no trouble-trouble this night / But love might make you stutter-stutter when it’s right." It is a fun and quirky song that is very reminiscent of vintage music from the '50s and '60s, but with a Caribbean twist."
‘The Minute I Heard Of Love’ is a song about keeping ourselves always open to love and being loved. "I hope there’s a life after death / ‘Cause there’s so much left here I wanna do / Yeah, no matter how I find myself / I find myself looking for you," goes the song over a bittersweet reggae groove that sometimes veers into blues territory.
Mraz closes the album with the lovely ‘Gratitude’, a gospel-like slice of reggae that has him recount all the things in life that he is grateful for. "I learned that it’s okay for hearts to go on their own way / They shaped my life / They made me like who I am today / They made me love who I am," sings Mraz, who is really showing us a much more fulfilling way to live. It's truly special when we're grateful for everything, from the seemingly daunting to the surreal ecstasies of life.
All things considered, this is very much a reggae album that showcases Mraz’s inherent musical sensibilities, full of free love and poppy fun vibes. Genre purists might even term this "Reggae-lite". Mraz’s mantra of "Look For The Good" brings a warm yet chill flavor to the typically sociopolitically-conscious reggae sound. This would definitely be a great listen at outdoor parties and beach settings, where both easy-going listening and busting out moves are appropriate options.