Usually, if I mention the name ‘Jason Mraz’ to someone, they’ll pause for a while and adopt a quizzical expression, reaching back into the dregs of their memory to find why the name rings a bell. Then the light switches on, and they remember with a smile. He is probably most famous for his motivational hit, ‘I Won’t Give Up’, and the wonderfully playful chart-topper, ‘I’m Yours’.
Having taken a break from producing music to star in Broadway’s Waitress, you could have been forgiven for wondering Mraz would ever return to brighten up the charts with his carefree optimism. But thankfully on Know, his new album, this is exactly what he does.
From the introduction to the conclusion, Know plays like the soundtrack to that moment at school where you were finally allowed onto the big field for summer (or maybe that was just one of my countryside childhood quirks). Mraz’s contagious happiness fizzles through the listener, and - call me corny - it’s the first album I’ve listened to in a while that’s actually made me smile to myself at the singer’s innocent humour.
The beauty of Know is undoubtedly its message, which is obvious from simply looking at the tracklist - the likes of ‘Better With You’, ‘Might As Well Dance’ and ‘Love Is Still The Answer’ immediately extinguish any doubts that Mraz has become hardened by life since when he first burst onto the scene. If anything, he sounds even happier, now being married and enjoying life in the US. He admits he was tempted to go down a darker path with his music after his last album, partly as a result of the seemingly exponential amount of issues that litter the world today, saying, “I wrote a lot of frustrated, angry, even sad songs between then and now, but nothing I wanted to come forward with; nothing I wanted to sing.”
Instead he penned ‘Have It All’, the album’s lead single, inspired by a blessing he received from a Myanmar monk in 2012. It is jam-packed with just about every positive, Pinterest-spawned mantra in existence (“May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows”/“May you always lead from the beating in your chest”, and the more typical Mraz lyric, “May you get a gold star on your next test”). What I love is that you can tell he’s genuinely written the tracks himself, because they’re too off-the-wall and wholesomely ingenuous to have been manufactured by a songwriting team, as lots of modern tracks are.
It would be easy for the cheesy punchlines and unbounded joyousness of this record to come across as too much, and perhaps even sickeningly sweet. But Jason Mraz delivers them with enough cheek and playful innocence that it works, and you can’t help but dance along. A lot of motivational, message-heavy projects can entail less attention being paid to the actual melodies, and okay, perhaps Mraz’s style is a bit too dated to really breach the current Top 40. But make no mistake - the songs on Know are as catchy as ever. The buoyant ode to getting lost in the moment with love, ‘Might As Well Dance’, is a clear highlight, while the Meghan Trainor assisted ‘More Than Friends’ adds drive to the generally light-hearted strummings of the rest of the album.
The breezy hooks, the twinkling riffs and the lovable lyrics are reminiscent of peak MIKA, where people let their guard down and just enjoyed themselves amongst the bubbly pop of his falsetto anthems.
What better antidote could there be to all the sorrow and seriousness of 2018?
Yours sincerely, but not seriously,
Image by Moses Namkung on Flickr
Her 2018 single 'Tennessee Bound' is raw, uplifting and alluringly catchy, just what any good country song should be
2018's 'One to Watch': Sinead Burgess
The Australian signer-songwriter’s career has been bubbling away under the surface for a few years now, but it looks like 2018 is the year she’s finally going to burst through our speakers and leap onto our playlists. Judging from the two singles that have thus far been released off her upcoming album, Damaged Goods, she has developed a rawer, more authentic country sound, and is all the better for it.
Her last EP, Wolf, released in 2016, had all the dark atmosphere and drama of a Sia record, but without anything to truly distinguish her from other modern pop artists. Tennessee Bound, her 2018 single, shows how much of a difference two years can make. It’s raw, uplifting - and alluringly catchy, just what any good country song should be. Its more recent counterpart, the album title track, 'Damaged Goods', highlights Sinead’s authenticity and her ability to connect with the listener through her lyrics. It is a moving, vulnerable ode to all those trying to make something of themselves, but who feel as though a certain moment in their past is holding them back.
I was fortunate enough to see Burgess perform as a support act on country mainstays The Shires’ Accidentally On Purpose tour earlier this year, and her energy made her an instant hit with the audience. Between songs her chat was fun and engaging, whilst not being overly corny, and by halfway through her performance of 'Tennessee Bound' half of the crowd were already singing along to the chorus.
Could 2018 be the year Burgess’ hard work plugging away in bars and clubs comes to fruition? I think so - watch this space.
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Listen to first: 'Tennessee Bound'
Next track out: 'Gonna Be Alright', Expected this Friday (27th July)
Sinead Burgess’ Album Damaged Goods is available to pre-order on iTunes, and is expected to drop on all platforms on 17th August
Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?