Love, Plain and Simple

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.

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Waiting to Hear the Four-Letter Word

So the new album “Love is A Four-Letter Word” is set to hit record bars on April 17, 2012. Not sure if it’s the same in my country, but I certainly hope so. I’ll be checking out some record shops on the said date just in case, after which I’ll listen in earnest.

Sure, the album has been available online for days now. In a bold move, the regular album in its entirety has been uploaded onto Soundcloud, where people can simply listen to all the tracks (although not in my country; perhaps Atlantic Records restricted access to US and European fans or something).

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The cloud's there, but sadly, it doesn't cover the whole world. Bet lots of fans are just dying for access.

There’s even an interactive puzzle on his site that lets fans unblock exclusive content, though to say it’s exclusive is a bit much; all you have to do is work for a few minutes on tangram-like puzzles, and you can see hidden songs and videos.

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Screenshot of the interactive game for exclusive Mraz content. "Easy" is a four-letter word!

It was a very bold move to upload the album, though. Not everyone would be inclined to purchase music that’s available for listening online. In fact, people are already sharing copies of his deluxe edition procured from the iTunes store, and there are downloads popping up in different places on the web. I am resisting temptation, and will buy a copy of my very own.

What do I expect? The same smooth singing, catchy easy-to-sing-to melodies, and the feel-good vibe of one of the best vocalists in the world today!

What’s the Jason Mraz concert going to be like?

The man needs no introduction. The performer behind the simply contagious song “I’m Yours,” which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 76 weeks, is visiting the Philippines. He has done so twice before; once in 2004, performing at the Aliw Theater, and once in 2006 (which I did not know about until I did the research for this blog post). I have missed two opportunities to see the person behind the hits “Curbside Prophet,” “Sleep All Day,” “Mr. A-Z,” and “Geek in the Pink.” I did not want to miss it a third time.

So my girlfriend and I have gotten our tickets. They were rather expensive, I must confess, but I wanted to see him up close, and I think that I won’t be disappointed. He’s an outstanding performer, and I think hearing him sing live at least once will be worth it.

There are only 21 days to go before his performance at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Just three weeks. Surprisingly, based on his official site, the tickets have not yet sold out. Are they too expensive? See for yourself, and you be the judge (the prices are in Philippine pesos):

The Official Poster for the Philippine leg of Mr. A-Z's round-the-world tour with longtime musical partner, Toca Rivera.

I also wanted to see what songs I could expect them to play for the night’s performance. A quick Internet search yielded the following average set list that the duo uses:

1. I’ve Never Known You
2. Theme Song to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
3. Lucky
4. Frank D. Fixer
5. You and I Both
6. The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)
7. Sail Away
8. The Dynamo of Volition
9. Only Human
10. In My Life (The Beatles cover)
11. What Would Love Do
12. A Beautiful Mess
13. Plane
14. They Shaped My Life
15. You Fuckin’ Did It
16. What Mama Say
17. Butterfly
18. (Encore) I’m Yours / Three Little Birds (Bob Marley cover)

If I’m not mistaken, I know only ten of those songs (nine and a half, counting the fact that I don’t think I’ve heard “Three Little Birds” before). Of those, I can properly sing along to only five; the rest, in my opinion, are too upbeat or too mellow for me or the crowd to sing along to. The songs I don’t know aren’t included in his studio albums, I think, so I don’t expect there to be much singing along (people will probably sing to the more familiar “You and I Both,” “The Remedy,” and “I’m Yours”), and anticipate more listening, watching, and applause (and for the more game audience members, dancing to “The Dynamo of Volition”), which is fine by me.

Ah… and probably some picture-taking.

Here is a picture from Jason's concert at Kuala Lumpur in 2009. The little white dots that pepper the black mass that is the audience are most likely their cameras.

(If you hate rants that take the form of digression or preaching, you might want to skip the next three paragraphs.)

Personally, I don’t mind that people take pictures at concerts. Heck, it’s something you want to remember for a while. You want to fondly recall being there, and you probably want to boast that you’ve seen this singer/band/good-looking person live, that you’ve witnessed his/her/their performance firsthand.

But sometimes people spend too much time documenting the experience to experience the experience (I had to read that line three times to make sure it made sense). Instead of singing along or applauding or shouting their lungs out, they’re busy getting the perfect shot of the moment, which could cause them to lose it. Worse, performers could be looking to generate some chemistry with the crowd, and instead find themselves playing to red dots and flashes in the darkness intermingled with screaming (did anybody else just imagine an in-the-dark firefight in a really bad spy movie, or is it just me?). At worst, they could block other people’s view, which spoils it for those other people.

It’s a shame that people’s actual reality sometimes takes a back seat to their online social reality; because of that, there’s a chance that some people attending the concert would forget that it’s supposed to be a shared evening, and inadvertently annoy those around or behind them. If you’re reading this post, and you’re going to be attending the concert on October 30, remember to show a little consideration. Take only the pictures that you need, and be careful not to block other people’s view.

I’m not sure if fans will be shooting pics and gushing over how good-looking this guy is, or just bragging about how close they were able to get, or telling stories about how insanely great the concert was. I suspect that some will be doing the first thing, though I have heard that some girls who thought Mr. Mraz was cute before do not care for the beard that he’s sporting now. Not that I’m criticizing it; as far as I’m concerned, the guy can look any way he wants, as long as he continues to be the lean, mean, song-singing machine who is adored by many.

Anyway, this post has run long enough. Time for me to start looking for those other eight songs. I may like some of them enough to memorize them by concert time.