Tuesday 8 May 2012

JASON MRAZ: From Genius to Irrelevant

Awghhh man, we used to love him. We saw him play in basements in front of 40 people, we saw him in tiny venues in Camden. He was really something. The voice was incredible and defied the limits of gender, the lyrics were fresher than this morning's rain and the concerts were epic. 

That was years ago. He finally got the BIG break, and absolutely everyone knows "I'm Yours". He entered the mainstream, yet he died as an artist.

And this isn't about not being a fan because he's not underground anymore. It's because he stopped taking risks. Such a unique artist who now, remarkably, sounds just like everyone else.

He came up in conversation last night. Steve reminisced about seeing him in Camden all those years ago, when Craig's new girlfriend chipped in with the fact Mraz has a new album out. I asked if she liked it, she said "it's really bland".

And that's what's so sad to hear. Because you could criticise Jason Mraz all you want, but you could never accuse him of being bland. But he is now. I feel it, and so did Craig's girlfriend, who I'd never talked to about music before.

Mraz may go on to sell heaps of records, but he's no longer relevant as an artist. Maybe he grew up, mellowed and matured. Or maybe he sold out. 
Having a hit like "I'm Yours" is great, but how do you sustain it? What's the formula? If you try to write hits, they'll be soulless and bland, as we're witnessing now. What everyone loved about him when he first came on the scene is how he was so UNIQUE! 

It's impossible to deny the fact his music has lost its edge. There were four Jason Mraz fans at the table last night. Three diehards and one casual, and none of us care anymore.

You can make it big, play to arenas, and chase the hit singles, but THAT is impossible to sustain, because the mainstream doesn't care, and your core fanbase knows you're not real anymore.

Jason Mraz has so much talent. Seriously, this guy has everything. But the bland records sound like everything else on the radio. He's only 35 and already he's playing it safe. I guess that's fine, he's got a house to upkeep, but he has the talent for greatness. I hope he finds his way back to it. 

Greatness is the hardest thing of all. Especially in this day and age. People often ask, "Would this generation's Springsteen or Dylan succeed?" and the answer is often "No". That's probably true, but let's not completely blame the industry. It comes down to the artists as well. The road to being relevant and brilliant is a longer one, with less guarantees, but someone has to take up the mantle. We need the next Tom Petty. 

 "And you may think it's all over 
But there'll be more just like me 
Who won't give in 
Who'll rise again"
 -Tom Petty

Care to share?


  1. As a "diehard" I have to say I agree, to some point. But he's always been easy-listening pop, with an occasional twist of raw (sometimes naughty) honesty. The difference now is that he has chosen to only offer the world the raw honesty that is upbeat. (His confession... watch the interview w/ Neil Patrick Harri.)
    But this in itself is risky because he has done this for very personal reasons. He sees himself as a light to the world, spreading a happy vibe, and he recognizes that his fans are yearning (in every aspect of life) to surround themselves with happiness. It's an epidemic among 30 somethings, and it is making the world a better place. But in the sensational music world, that's risky.
    Another reason to do this (I speculate) is that he is very, very much in the public eye now. A few years ago he could share the ups AND the downs without the world wondering which cute girl he was singing about. After his very public relationship and break-up with Tristan Prettyman, I think he's going to remain a bit more private and protective of those relationships. It's possible that he doesn't care what people are saying but the kind of guy he is, well, he doesn't want his fame to cause his close friends to be bashed by the populace.
    Lastly, I say give the new album another chance. The sound varies quite a lot, having an almost country sound in some songs. But even better, carrying a Paul Simon vibe that is timeless. And most importantly, there are a few gems (93 Million and Living in the Moment) which will not just catapult into top radio play, but will become anthems in people's lives. When the message is, "Love each other, be good to yourself," you can overlook a few bland songs and embrace the rest... that's what the skip button is for.

    By the way, I find it fascinating that he thanked Ryan Adams on this CD. And that I only found your blog because of the Ryan Adams video and blog you posted long ago. They are SO very different in sound and message and yet I'm obsessed with both.
    Jason chooses to set aside the melancholy songs and offer the world only happy; Ryan jokes that his happiest song will drive you to take Prozac. My yin and yang, perhaps.

  2. I agree the album went in a bit of different direction but I don't think it was a bad one. Personally i don't think too much optimism is bad, a bit absurd but certainly not bad. Besides he's still the same as he has always been just listen to when he preforms live, its as funny, sexy and narcissistic as it was back in the day. I admit I am a diehard but I found the new album to be just fine. My favorite is still We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

  3. Much as I would love to constantly go on about the awesomeness of Jason Mraz I find that I have to agree that his current stuff just isn't like how it was before. Sometimes I find that he takes himself too seriously now, whereas the attraction of his older music was that he seemed to be a little more self-deprecating and into his silliness rather than the whole kumbaya-we-must-live-high thing. I agree that the message is good, but when almost every one is like this it starts to feel a little preachy and annoying and makes you go, "But what about all the OTHER parts of life, which are just as beautiful if not as happy?"

  4. I understand the whole preachy thing can get annoying. The only thing is that when people preach it is usually about something political, personal or religious. The kind of preaching he does is more general, more towards our perfect aspirations: Be happy and make other people happy as well. As hippie-ish as it is, I believe it is something we should all try to do; you know just without the drugs, jam fests and protests.

  5. I agree that the current albums aren't as great as the first, but I still love listen to some of his current songs. I think some artist does change after they are successful but I don't think he completely fail. Hope he'll create a record as great as the first. By the way, I'm going to see his concert next month. And excited for it!

  6. Eric Hutchinson is kind of my new Jason Mraz.

  7. I am a Diehard fan, and while I know his latest album could have been better, I think he made it for himself more than anyone else. He as gone through a lot lately and he admitted that he was really considering quitting. It made me really sad to think that he might quit. But with this new album he really wanted to explore the great things in life to remind himself of why he was doing what he was doing. The new songs are still amazing to me. But in a different way. If you always compare one song or album to another, you will always have an opinion of which is better. That's why I think this album should be judged as a stand alone album, and it should be seen as a new Mraz, not a worse one.

  8. Perhaps the outcome does defines the intent, but so often it does not. Tried, and it might have been a success or failure. Not sounding fresh, better, unique may NOT be a statement of Mraz losing the edge or appetite for risk. Did we as audience let go? Can we let go of our love of who he was, and risk to know who he is? No this is not to defend Jason, this is to defy ourselves.

  9. He's in it for life, I think. I watched him play "I'm Yours" recently, and he improvised a beautiful guitar part. It made me see the countless hours he's put into his music, and probably he'll continue to. I know what you mean by the new album being a little bland but I think there's great things ahead. Anyway, this is the first time I've ever liked a person so much I will myself to like his music, and I think it will pay off. He's still the real deal.

  10. Couldn't agree more. I actually find myself mourning the loss of my once favorite artist when his new stuff comes on. Oh well.

  11. I have to say that I have loved Jason since the jammin java days but have to admit I've never seen him live, that is until Friday and was truely hurt and disappointed. He seemed like he had no compassion for what he was doing. Just doing to be doing. It was so annoying and frustrating to me. Though I like the new CD, I will say that I was most excited when he performed plane, but naturally no one knew the song.

  12. in contrary to most people here, i actually really like the new album..yeah the past ones were the greatest..but i still love the new one..
    it gives a very positive vibe and makes me feel that the world is such a wonderful place to live in despite its difficulties

    i was experiencing some hardships with my relationship with friends..like i thought i'd never get myself to talk to them again..but when i listened to his song (particularly living in the moment) it's like i woke up..

    and now when i go home i listen to his songs in succession (including the old ones,not all, but the ones i really like) and i feel so warm and happy inside

  13. http://blog.music.aol.com/2012/05/30/jason-mraz-suicide-i-wont-give-up/