In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 9 is Jason Mraz.
“Yeah the Mr. A to Z, they say I’m all about the wordplay,” Mraz sings on the song “Wordplay,” a self-aware song of saccharine pop music in which Mraz explains the twists and turns of his lyrical acrobatics. Although that song didn’t make the cut for my ultimate compilation, Mraz’s lyrics have left an indelible imprint on my life. Over the past decade or so, Mraz has combined cocky, clever wordplay with introspection and sentimentality in his songs. His ability to vacillate between ice cool confidence and heart-on-his-sleeve vulnerability—plus his ability to turn a phrase—is what makes Mraz a top-10 favorite of mine.
After one listen through his 2002 album, Waiting For My Rocket to Come, I was on board the Mraz bandwagon. Songs like “Curbside Prophet” demonstrated a hip hop influence in terms of the way he put words together, but Mraz would never be confused for Eminem. He’s not a rapper, and unlike Eminem, the man can sing, too. Plus, in place of thumping bass beats, Mraz’s music included everything from acoustic guitars to a brass section to banjo. And for every happy-go-lucky track like “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” Mraz also had something like “You and I Both”, a tender-hearted love song. Over time, Mraz’s softer side would prove to be his most commercially successful avenue, but it’s his combination of moods that kept him in my rotation.
Mraz’s music has been a constant in my relationship with Jessie like mile markers on a highway. So it is ironic that it was actually an ex-girlfriend that first introduced me to Mraz’s music back in the early 2000s. It was on an impromptu unofficial first date on April 15, 2005, that Mraz’s music earned a place in Matt and Jessie history. She introduced me to a mix of Mraz acoustic tracks from the early 2000s, four of which made it onto this compilation. Among those four songs, “Little You & I” and “Sleep All Day” earned a special place on the soundtrack of my life as listening to them led into our first kiss. Mraz’s lyrics set the scene. “Little You & I” includes the following:
It’s something we already know so well
And it’s right on, right on the tip of our tongue
Something big that has already begun
“Sleep All Day” played next, featuring the lines:
and we knew it was time to take a chance here
and time to compromise our lives just a little while
and it was time for all the wrong reasons
but time is often on my side and I give it to you tonight
The rest, as we say, is relationship history, but we owe a special debt of gratitude to Mr. Mraz for the instrumental (or should I say lyrical?) role he played in kickstarting our relationship. And, aside from the personal love story connection, the songs are quite lovable on their own merit.
Later that year, 2005, Mraz would release his second major album, Mr. A-Z. While some of the album felt a bit overproduced, especially in light of the acoustic sets Jessie had introduced me too, there were a few standout tracks. “Clockwatching” is a smooth-talking track that again put Mraz’s lyrical dexterity on display. The words really hit home for two young people in love fighting the uphill battle against parent-imposed curfews. “The Forecast” boasts that “crazy is the forecast all week.” In my experience, that is a fair enough summation of trying to maintain a long distance relationship in college. At 8:10 “Song For a Friend” is the longest Mraz to make the cut. Just when it seems like the song is over, the drums bring in a fantastic gospel-style chorus that is goosebump-inducing.
In 2008, Jessie and I hit a rough patch, and Mraz released another album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things that included “A Beautiful Mess” and “Details in the Fabric”, the two most beautifully sad songs I think he has ever written. I cannot tell you how many times I sang along with those tracks during my down days. I still love them today, as they serve as reminders of both the cathartic power of music and the fact that beautiful things can come out of sad or tragic times. On the positive side, the longest breakup of our relationship proved not to be an ending. On a trip to Virginia Beach with Jessie, I still remember listening to “I’m Yours” and “Lucky” and although it wouldn’t be made official until some time later, I couldn’t help but feel Mraz and Colbie Caillat were stand-ins for us as they sang on Lucky:
Do you hear me? I’m talking to you
Across the water across the deep blue ocean
Under the open sky, oh my, baby I’m trying
Boy, I hear you in my dreams
I feel your whisper across the sea
I keep you with me in my heart
You make it easier when life gets hard
Lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again
In 2010, when Jessie and I got engaged, I proposed at sunrise, and of course I had a playlist to accompany the event. Mraz’s “Conversations With Myself” from the aforementioned acoustic mix Jessie had introduced to me some five years earlier was the second song I played that day. I just of easily could have included the appropriately named “Sunshing Song” from Mraz’s 2009 release Jason Mraz’s Beautiful Mess – Live On Earth or “Hey Love” from his early career live and acoustic release.
Only one song made my compilaion from Mraz’s 2012 release Love is a Four Letter Word, but “I Won’t Give Up” is a gem with a lyrical maturity that mirrors the mature, married love I share with Jessie.
Well, I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)
God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)
God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)
Unfortunately Mraz’s latest album, 2014’s was released so close to the date of making this compilation that it did not land any tracks. However, since I’m writing this several months later, I have to mention that Mraz’s music is still going strong as several of these songs have already landed on recent Matt’s Mixes. Clearly Jason Mraz and his trademark Jason Mraz hats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
MM 30 at 30: Jason Mraz tracklist (finalized July 15, 2014)
1. Details in the Fabric feat. James Morrison
2. A Beautiful Mess
3. Song For a Friend
4. I Won’t Give Up
5. The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)
6. Conversation With Myself (Acoustic)
8. The Forecast
9. Hey Love
10. Little You & I
11. You and I Both
12. No Stopping Us
14. I’m Yours
15. 1000 Things (Acoustic)
16. Sleep All Day (Acoustic)
17. Curbside Prophet
18. Sunshine Song (Live)