By CHERRY MAE SALAZAR
Laid-back summer days as we know them may have become vivid daydreams, but in the comfort of our homes where much of life and living now revolves, one can simply play Jason Mraz’s latest album Look for the Good for a dose of hope.
Ever the risk-taker, Mraz has been flirting with reggae for several years now, and he’s finally committing an entire album to the genre in collaboration with acclaimed producer Michael Goldwasser.
When the Grammy-winning artist was writing songs for this new record a year ago, no one would have foreseen the dystopian horrors 2020 would bring. That the album release is backdropped by violent protests in the US, a global health crisis, and political chaos in some parts of the world, made the promotions utterly challenging at best and virtually impossible at worst. There were none of the usual media interviews, live shows, and tours, yet this couldn’t have made Mraz’s latest offering any more timely and relevant.
Filled with Mraz’s signature brand of optimism, the title track “Look For The Good” reminds us to find and acknowledge the light in the midst of these dark times, which may come in the form of friends and families caring for one another, volunteers devoting their time for service to others, or simply anything that can bring a smile to our faces. It’s the anthem we didn’t know we need.
The message of “Make Love” is clear-cut within the first few lines of the song: “Put down the weapons that you use against yourself / You don’t need them anymore / Lay down the weapons that you use against the world / We don’t need another war.”
And it’s telling that the first “weapon” Mraz asks us to take off are those “against yourself.” Mraz’s first reggae album cover, inspired by “Misterogers Knows You Are Special,” shows a mirror that implies looking for the good starts with seeing the self as “good.”
“My Kind” brings the journey of appreciating our uniqueness as individuals further by celebrating the differences that make up mankind. In the same breath, “You Do You,” featuring actress Tiffany Haddish, is a groovy bop about self-expression and inclusion.
Breezy, chillax “Good Old Daze” is perfect for days when we beat up our work-from-home selves for the occasional lethargy and inactivity, and “Time Out” with reggae icon Sister Carol gives us the permission to slow down and, as the title implies, take a time-out.
Inspired by his organic family farm and the women whom he admits contributed immensely to his person, including frequent collaborators Raining Jane and MC Flow, Mraz sings “Wise Woman” to pay homage to the wonders of nature, Mary Jane, and women in general.
“Take the Music” is an ode to the gift and power of music from the micro (“With the help of vibration through tone and rhythm”) to the macro (“Music has no limitations … From the whisper of the trees, to the elephant that’s belting”).
Retiring his old monickers, “Geek in the Pink” and “Mr. A-Z” once again employs his wit and wordplay with “DJ FM AM JJASON” — initials of every month in a year from December to November — “to send you my love around the clock, 24/7 365.”
With a two-decade-long career, there’s no denying and silencing Mraz’s playfulness. “Hearing Double” is the ultimate pick-me-upper in the album, inviting a smile without trying too hard. Hypnotic “The Minute I Heard of Love” is, more than a play on ballads, a narration of two different aspects of love: the physical (“When I was 12 years old / And undergoing so many changes … I started feeling myself / What else is a boy to do?”) and the spiritual (“Some say God is love / Some say love is kindness / Well, it’s all of the above / I hope there’s a life after death”).
Tying everything together, there couldn’t have been a better song choice than “Gratitude” to close the album. With a touch of gospel music, the song recounts details in Mraz’s life for which he is grateful. And the list isn’t all about good and helpful ones for which we should shout thanks, but it also includes the painful experiences that shape the person we become.
Then, the album ends where it began: with the mantra “Look for the good.” All 12 tracks follow a coherent, consistent tune to the themes of love and peace, values that Mraz has consistently preached. It’s in this album that Mraz’s social consciousness comes to the forefront.
There can be no doubt about the American singer’s sincerity. His outspokenness in social issues doesn’t end with mere social media posts — he supported the campaign for then US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and released a music video about it, as well as met with legislators to lobby for the protection of rights of music creators.
When he speaks of sustainability, it must be viewed in the context of how the singer-songwriter not only owns and manages but also himself tills the lands in his organic farm, and how the Mraz team recycles old merchandise shirts into new shirts, among others.
More importantly, all earnings from the sales and streams of the Look For The Good record will be donated to organizations that fight social injustice, not least of all is Black Lives Matters. (LINK: https://jasonmraz.com/look-for-the-good-a-note-from-jason-mraz/)
In his own words: What good are my lyrics if they are just lofty words with no action? Even in what feels like a dystopian reality show where we all are participants facing an existential crisis, Mraz’s Look for the Good is a reminder that we can direct our attention to what truly matters: love. Everything else follows.