So last week I bought Jason Mraz’s new album Love Is a Four-Letter Word. Simple album art, simple sleeve. And, sure enough, when I played it, there were simple songs.
What do I mean by simple? Well, let’s take some of the songs for example. I Won’t Give Up is a declaration of a love that will not surrender.
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Even though the imagery of skies evokes a sense of grandness, and there’s an absolute declaration there (“I’m giving you all my love”), the words are simple in that it feels like they’ve been sung by so many other singers. Consider also the lyrics from The Woman I Love:
We don’t have to hurry
You can take as long as you want
I’m holdin’ steady
My heart’s at home
With my hand behind you
I will catch you if you fall
Yeah I’m gonna love you like the woman I love
Again, simple words that sound like they should be familiar. Sometimes I feel sorry for singers and songwriters; it’s difficult to touch on new artistic ground when so many other musicians have lived, played, and died before you were even born. But Jason’s voice, which I think will always sound like a boy’s, makes me listen as if they were new and more sincere.
But the song that spoke straight to my heart was the eighth track, called Frank D. Fixer:
Frank D. Fixer was a handyman
He could handle everything; he was my granddad
He grew his own food and fixed his own car
I watched it all happen in our backyard
He’d reinvent the part to fix the broken home
He restored the heart
The first verse sets the tone for the entire song, in which he wishes that he could express love the same way his grandfather could. This is a form of love that is rarely sung about; forget about buying things, or fighting a world that won’t let you be together, or being so attracted to the cutest guy/girl in your school. What this song extols is a man who was steady, level-headed, and able to set things right for his family.
This is a sincere, basic form of love, free from abstract concepts like “forever” and “soul.” Though the lyrics referred to gestures like “restoring the heart” or “building a town if the world came down,” those are just flourishes of artistic license. What I think of when I hear the song is a love that is as good and honest as a bar of soap. It may sound boring to some, but to me, it’s something that’s sorely under-represented in music nowadays.
The album isn’t restricted to romantic love, either. There are also songs about love of the world (93 Million Miles), love of life (Living in the Moment), and even a song expressing his love of expression (Everything is Sound), but they’re sung in the same effortless, bombast-free way.
A simple album with simple songs. And quite simply, I loved it.