It’s always been a fear of mine that whatever I write about will never be good enough. Maybe that’s just a fear that was unfounded, or based in things of the past, maybe I was trying to get good at being good at writing when all throughout high school, I wasn’t. But whatever the case, I’ve found that at numerous points throughout my blog post series, I’d get this idea, or this thought in my head, that what I’m writing doesn’t make sense, or it is just mere folly, for what I’m discussing about and who I’m delving into and trying to analyse for that given week within the series. So lemme back track a little bit. I’ve always loved writing. I think when I was younger (a teenager), my brother and I started writing a ‘book’ if you will, a series of passages and pages about our lives. I think I have that file on my computer somewhere, but from where it stands, I think it’s about a couple of hundred pages long. I still haven’t revisited that in a long time, but herein lies the point. I’ve found that every time I’ve written something that is substantial in length, it’s not necessarily because I have a lot to say about whatever I’m writing about. You can probably check through all my blog posts up until now, and you can probably realise that the Switchfoot post that I wrote about in week #2, and the post about Sugarland that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago…my writing style hasn’t really changed between the two, even though they were two years apart. What has changed was the length of these posts, and maybe sometimes, unfortunately so, because re-reading some of my later posts, I realised that I was writing more than what was needed. I would write and write and write, not necessarily because I have a ton to say, but because I’d write, to prove to…my parents, myself, to my brother, to people on the internet, to my old teachers at school, I guess to prove to people that I could write long, that I could write good, that I was good enough to be writing. Because I reckon it all went back to when I was in Year 7 in high school. I was in English, and I can remember that we’d all have to do a creative writing piece, 1 per term (there were four terms in 1 year back then). When it was time to submit this, my teacher would more often than not, read out a person’s work, and this work that we’d all hear, would either be really good, mediocre, or even terrible. There was one term where my creative writing piece was read out. I don’t know what I wrote about, nor can I even remember if people even knew that it was my piece of work that was being read out. But suffice to say, the English teacher read my stuff, and then they stopped in the middle, put the paper down, and said to the class in no uncertain terms, ‘now this is an example of how not to write’. I felt small from that moment on, and after that point in Year 7 onwards…I was never good at English. I loved it, don’t get me wrong. But maybe at a subconscious level, if the teacher said that I wasn’t good, in Year 7… then maybe I wasn’t good? Looking back on it now, I know now that reading aloud was not the way to go if the teacher wanted to correct someone. But analysing my writing skills now, and delving into the question of ‘why I write longer and longer blog posts as each week progresses’….I think it’s unfortunately because of this moment where I was basically told ‘I wasn’t good enough’, that with every passing blog post, I felt the need to write more and more, to prove to myself, and maybe to prove to my family, that I was capable, and that I still had these skills in me. that I was good.
And so, onto my next blog now. With I’m sure won’t be as long as blogs that I’ve done just recently. This one I’m gonna try to keep shorter. Intentionally. Because for the sake of everything moving forward, these blogs will need to take on a slightly new-ish format. There won’t be many album-analysis within each blog post, maybe for good reason. I’ll be trying to write less and keep things more succinct so that people can at least hold interest throughout the whole blog itself. Nevertheless, as I’ve been listening to Jason Mraz and his music this last week with much intrigue and anticipation; one thing has come to mind- Jason’s music is deep from the word go, and is not for the casual listener, the person who just wants to listen to some happy-go-lucky artist, with not much thinking involved. Jason is not one of those guys where you put on his music in the background, you go away and do something for a while during the day, and then you come back and listen to the music later. No, this is an artist where the songs really indeed matter to someone, somewhere, doing something, as Jason’s music delves into the depths of who we are as people, and what it means to people to have a song impact their life and challenge the status quo- sort-of like a Switchfoot-type artist, if you’d put it bluntly.
Sure, in an overarching sense, Jason’s music and his overall vibe isn’t that traditional- there’s elements of jazz, country, folk-pop, reggae, R&B, blue-eyed soul and ‘soft rock’ present on Jason’s songs over the years, and if one tries to pick and pinpoint Jason’s musical style, one can draw comparisons from other similar artists like Colbie Caillat, Gavin DeGraw, Train, Five For Fighting, Sara Bareilles and John Mayer; but the real thing special about Jason’s music that I’ve learnt from hearing it this last week or so, is how much of a joy it has been to just sit back and be immersed in one of the most fun-filled, emotive, poignant and enjoyable body of work I’ve heard, within the realms of singer-songwriter/folk, since John Mayer a while or so, ago. From songs like ‘The Remedy’, ‘Geek in the Pink’, ‘I Won’t Give Up’ and ‘Lucky’, to ‘Look for the Good’, ‘Have it All’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘More Than Friends’, Jason has managed to pave a career for himself where his music has been the catalyst for many people to look deep within the psyches over the years, in the best most possible way. Not your typical ‘easy-listening’ artist that doesn’t require much ‘thinking’ a la Michael Buble, Jason’s work is as much rhythmically unique and interesting as it is lyrically compelling and challenging, an artist that will be enjoyed by a lot of people if they appreciate similar music by artists like Train, Sarah Bareilles, John Mayer, and Colbie Caillat, to name a few!
Now let’s get this out of the way for a second- Jason Mraz’s discography may be littered with a plethora of radio hits and chart-topping songs, Jason probably only has two massive hits throughout his whole discography- ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’. And that’s ok. A majority of other artists, much of whom I’ve discussed in this blog series before, have had a few radio hits that have stood above the rest- Bryan Adams is very much well known for his songs ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’ and ‘Summer of 69’, while Skillet’s two most famous songs (by a mile) ‘Hero’ and ‘Monster’ have found incredible success within the mainstream markets. Songs from U2’s The Joshua Tree, especially tracks like ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, have been spun on radio more than any other song on any other album, and Adele, well, she’s got ‘Hello’, and then everything else, I guess. So for a guy like Jason to have great big stellar songs like ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, and then not much else, is nothing uncommon- but that doesn’t mean his place within this blog series is in question- probably the opposite. For the songs ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ are so well known by people out in the general public, that these songs are known even without knowing Jason himself- I can almost guarantee you that people know these songs, but when you ask them ‘well, who sings ‘I Won’t Give Up’?’, people wouldn’t know. And maybe that’s still ok. For an artist to be successful and impactful in someone’s life, is for when a song by them, hits someone else, and challenges their own thinking, in a way that it is the song for its own merits, that really digs deep within the soul, and not because the song is by ‘this artist’ or that…in other words, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ are great and impactful, challenging and influential, not because of the name affiliated with these songs ‘Jason Mraz’, but because the songs are good regardless. And that I reckon is a great measure to how influential an artist really is- are the songs ‘influential’ just because the artist is popular, or are the songs ‘influential’ even if the artist is not? And herein lies the point. Aside from ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, Jason’s music wouldn’t be as compelling or even as enticing, and that’s probably a fact, and that fact would probably extend to a number of other artists out there too. And maybe people listen to music based on the amount of radio hits this artist has, but needless to say, Jason’s music, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ inclusive, has reminded me the difference between popular and influential, and even if all the ‘chart-topping’ songs from Jason (and other artists) were taken away from their discography, would they still be impactful and influential to other people? Maybe, maybe not, but the real statement of the fact remains. That Jason’s music challenges and inspires, allows us to contemplate as well as be soberly reminded of our own role in this world we live in, and how we were to live our lives, if love and appreciation were at the forefront and not just comparison and envy.
‘I’m Yours’ was unveiled to the world in 2007, as the first single to his third album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, and is a joyful, playful, ukulele track that odes to the fact that there are many possibilities in life and love, and that this song allows us all to be open to these possibilities. It is a child-like song because it talks about a lot of things that even children long to have in their lives- the need for us all to feel loved, worthy, accepted, and just validated in life. While the song is alluding to a romantic relationship that maybe Jason was having during that time, and declaring that he is hers, ‘I’m Yours’ is nevertheless a song that can be projected to other situations other than romantic, as we see such a song encourage us all to pursue our relationships in our lives that we know are edifying, that can lift us up and challenge us to be the better versions of ourselves we know we can. Yes, this song can be taken in a way that is very possessive (like I’m yours and then in effect, you’re mine), but all creepiness aside, this track is as much beautiful, sweet and lovely, as it should be motivating and compelling, as we see in our own lives, of whether the relationships we have with others are building up people or tearing it all down, and from that assessment, what we should do in our own areas of relationships to better such a thing, or to even rectify it in the first place. And as Jason himself says, ‘…[the song] was written rather quickly, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I was at home in my writing room, chugging along on my electric guitar, minding my reggae influences, grateful for another sunny afternoon in San Diego. The melody just appeared out of nowhere while the words flew over my head as my thoughts were focused on surrendering to the moment. That is ultimately what the song is about – giving yourself or your time to someone or something else. I thought it was cool and had a nice bounce, and I began playing it live almost immediately. That was five years ago. After it had lived on the road for a while I decided to put it on a record to give it a home. When I finally recorded it, my fans were relieved that we didn’t overproduce it. We kept the feel and arrangement true to how we play it live. And what I’ve noticed, the fans react in a way that shows the song isn’t about me. This is a song that people sing to each other, or to themselves. It can be a love song or a personal song of empowerment. Its melody is not unlike a nursery rhyme, and the message is like reading fortune cookie after fortune cookie…’
And then there’s ‘I Won’t Give Up’, Jason’s other powerful and tremendously impactful radio hit. It has been these two songs that have stood out amongst all of his discography, and with good reason- in fact, I heard ‘I Won’t Give Up’, most likely on the radio, before ‘I’m Yours’, and immediately became impacted by such a song as this. While the song itself is an ode to a long-lasting relationship, and the necessity of hard work within it and being able to traverse the hard stuff in order for a couple to emerge from the ashes better than before; the song can still easily be related to any other relationship non-romantic, and a way of declaring that friendships over long periods of time, shouldn’t die because of one trivial issue. This is a song about perseverance, and a message of being able to keep going in the face of adversity, because we know that we believe in such a relationship in order for us to address whatever is the issue, instead of sweeping things under the rug as people do in their own lives. This is a song that hopefully has a call-to-action vibe, to stick through something no matter what happens. ‘I Won’t Give Up’ can hopefully give us the clarity of when to fight for something and someone, and when to let go, as maybe, we can differentiate between a relationship that we know we don’t want to die, and one that unfortunately cannot be salvaged, no matter how much we want it to be. And to know the difference can be an art in and of itself, and such a song can remind us all that our main goal is to not give up so easily when faced with trials that may derail a relationship, but also be reminded that sometimes, it can seem futile to chase a relationship when it’s all one-sided in the end. As Jason relays about the song, we see his motivations behind it, and get a better grasp of what the song means for him. As Jason divulges, we see that ‘…as many of my songs are, I write for the purpose of understanding what the hell’s going on in my life, my position in the world, processing that lesson and that miracle that I’m learning. Seeing it on the page, proving to myself that I understand the lesson, that I’m applying it to my life, and that I can move on. Ultimately it was about, you know, regardless of what happens in this relationship, I don’t have to give up on loving this person, or loving myself, or give up on whatever my dreams are. Even though it’s written through the filter of relationships, it’s not necessarily specific for relationships. For me, the true meaning exists in the bridge saying ‘I don’t want to be someone who walks away so easily, I’m here to stay and make a difference.’ That is for all of us. We all have something that we’re fighting for or that we’re striving for. Whether we want to coach our soccer team to victory or lose five pounds in a month, whatever it is, there’s nothing too small worth fighting for and there’s nothing too big worth going after…’
While both ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ stand tall above the rest and will forever be remembered as Jason’s pioneering work, there are other songs on other albums that have stood out for me, even though the two major popular ones, are the ones aforementioned. Even if you take away ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ from his discography altogether, Jason may not be as popular, but he’d still be influential, because of how his songwriting ability and passionate enthusiasm is, and how he writes songs that really go to the heart of life and all of its uniqueness and mysteries. Starting his career way back in the early 2000s, one of Jason’s earlier hits is ‘The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)’ from his first album Waiting For My Rocket to Come, a song that I heard before even before hearing the track this last week. Maybe I heard it years ago on the radio and I didn’t really know who the artist was, or even what the song was, but nevertheless, ‘The Remedy’ was familiar even when it wasn’t. The song itself is about not letting the happenings of life hold us down, and to not worrying about certain outcomes in life, because worry in and of itself can cause our lives to dwindle because of the added stress and the physical manifestations of worry in the first place. The song is also written by Jason specifically for a friend of his who had been diagnosed with cancer at the time, and thus, a very personal one for Jason, I’m sure even years later. A song guised as a pop melody, this is a very personal track, and one that can be as motivational and a feel-good song, as it can be a gut-wrencher. ‘Geek in the Pink’, from Jason’s follow-up album Mr A-Z is also a standout song on his discography, as we see Jason present a track that all but surmises the fact of not making assumptions about someone, even though they can be portrayed as ‘the geek in the pink’. Geeks in a general sense are very on-the-outer, in school and in life. People tend to pass them by, to assume they are only knowledge-worthy and nothing else. Yes, geeks are different, and have a different way of seeing the world, but to shun people because of an assumption that all geeks aren’t sociable creatures? It’s done more often than we think, and so such a song as this can hopefully challenge our own assumptions of people (it can be geeks, people who dress up in pink whom we immediately assume to be part of the LGBTQIA community, people who have different opinions than us) and how to dismiss someone because they’re not like us, can be more dangerous in the long run, to our own psyches and our own relationships in the future.
‘Mr Curiosity’, also from Mr A-Z, is a melancholy song (complete with a uniquely placed operatic bridge) about someone struggling in life from depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, crying out to ‘Mr Curiosity’ to come help him gain more of an interest in life in general. A prayer-like melody, Jason is asking for help and longing to become more zealous in a life that he’s lost passion in, which is something we all can relate to, regardless of where we are in life collectively and individually. ‘Love Someone’, from Jason’s most underrated album YES!, is a song about…you guessed it, love, and how in this life we lead, we need love, in all of its facets, to keep us going- love in a romantic sense, love between family, love between mates and friends, and the love and appreciation of fellow man and the mankind of the world. We need all this love and its different types, to make sense of the world, and ‘Love Someone’ reminds us of the necessity of this. ‘Best Friend’, also from YES!, is also a song I’ve heard a lot recently on my Jason Mraz playlist on Spotify, and it wasn’t even a radio single from said album. Nevertheless, it is a song that carries along in theme from ‘Love Someone’; and speaks about an appreciation someone has for another…their best friend. While the song is about a relationship between best friends in an earthly sense, I feel this song can also be applicable to the relationship we have with God the Father- He is indeed our best friend, our Saviour, our Father and our Redeemer, and such a song as this can easily be sung to God with passion, enthusiasm and heart.
‘Life is Wonderful’, a lesser known track from Mr A-Z, speaks about the wonder of life, and how it can often take the bad things that we overcome, for us to appreciate the better things, and for us to not let our comfortability of life take things for granted even when we know our circumstances can change within the flip of a switch, while ‘Lucky’, featuring pop-acoustic artist Colbie Caillat (famous for her songs ‘Bubbly’, ‘Try’ and ‘Brighter Than the Sun’) is a love song in its truest and purist form, about the feelings of goodness that comes from being in love with your best friend (and them reciprocating of course!), and how often the best spousal relationships come from being friends first. ‘Live High’, from Jason’s most popular album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, is a song about religion and God, and while I don’t know specifically the religion that Jason himself prescribes to, we see a song nevertheless esteemed in the belief and thought that we as people ought to live our lives with purpose and intentionality, living it righteously, highly and mightily, a way of living life that respects the fact that the reason why we long to live like this, is that we are all made in the image of God, and that the things that we aspire to is because it is in God’s nature Himself. ‘Love For a Child’, from the same album, is a song very personal to Jason- a track about the divorce of his parents when he was 5, and his own thoughts about it all. As Jason puts it, ‘…it’s based on loose facts, meaning that I did my best to recall my family actually living together. And my few memories are hearing my family behind closed doors, watching my parents sort through a house that was trashed. We got burglarized – burgled? We got robbed and everything was all over the house. And I stood there in awe while my parents stood there arguing and going though everything. So when I wrote the song, I remembered what it was like. (One) line is from when my parents were busy not talking to each other. I could hide right down the middle (between them). I could tell my dad, ‘I’m going to my mom’s,’ and tell her, ‘I’m going to my dad’s,’ and then disappear for the weekend and learn (things) the hard way. At same time, I had a great upbringing from two families. And the freedom I had, I’m grateful for. You can’t live the rest of your life carrying a pain because your parents couldn’t get along. I choose to spend my life crafting a joy…’ While the song is a subtle yearning for families to come together to work things out instead of divorcing, the song nevertheless acknowledges the fact that divorces do happen, and regardless, the love for a child between two parents together, verses between two parents not together, shouldn’t change at all. ‘Details in the Fabric’, another personal song for Jason (written about a friend who had a devastating breakup and thought their whole identity was rocked, because of the fact that their whole identity was placed in this relationship), is a reminder for each of us to always ‘…hold your own, know your name, and go your own way…’, in understanding who you are and what you believe, our values and your ethics, when you’re alone and not attached to anyone. Knowing who you are and being secure in that, will keep us all in good stead into the future, if and when relationship struggles come to a head. Many people define themselves through the eyes of a relationship, but this song is a great reminder to carve our destinies ourselves, never relying on other people to be our ‘everything’, ultimately understanding that when we put our security in someone else, our identity may be rocked when they leave or some other tragedy happens. ‘Wordplay’, in and amongst all the heavy melodies that Jason has unveiled in his career, is one of the very few tongue-in-cheek songs about radio singles, and his own thought process about trying to recreate a single after his success with ‘The Remedy’. Written and recorded on his Mr A-Z album, we see a track poke fun about how people want a certain cookie-cutter format for a radio song, and Jason calls these trends out, and says that often if and when a song get popular on radio is about rhyming and wordplay and a formula like that, compared to how deep and introspective other songs like ‘I Won’t Give Up’ have become and are, as we think that it is the meaningful songs that get the success compared to the nonsensical melodies, when it is in fact the other way around.
While Jason’s career has been littered with a plethora of hits, it’s always ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’ that I keep coming back to. Even when I hear all the other powerful songs throughout his career, I keep coming back to these two, and it is in these songs that I would recommend Jason to people and say – listen to both ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, and then go from there. Yes, there are other great songs throughout all of Jason’s discography. ‘Have It All’ is a quasi-religious track about declaring blessings upon people and longing for an enriched life for another person, just because it’s the right thing to do, while ‘More than Friends’ is a duet with Meghan Trainor about longing to be more than friends with someone, and actually taking a step into the unknown to put your heart out there, even if it gets crushed in the process. ’93 Million Miles’ is a notion that no matter where you go in the world and what country you’re in, you can always come home, that home is not a place, but rather who you’re with, and where your heart and treasures are, while ‘The Woman I Love’ is an appreciation and ode to the women in Jason’s life. ‘Make It Mine’ speaks about going after the things that are important to you in life, to make it mine through hard work and perseverance, to chase after improbable because of desire, dreams and a vision you have in life, rather than just waiting for a desired outcome to go your way, while ‘Look For the Good’, from Jason’s 2020 album of the same name, encourages us all to see the good in each person, to look more on the optimistic side, despite the fact that this song, as well-intentioned as it is, falls into a pantheistic theology as Jason declares ‘…everyone is nature, everyone is god, everyone is love and light and vibration…’, something that goes in direct opposition to what the Bible is about. Nevertheless, as much as a squirm a little at ‘Look For the Good’, the message of the song nevertheless still stands, that we as people should look beyond what we believe to be different about each other, and to look for commonalities, the good, what we can learn from people who have seemingly different values and belief systems than yourself. Once we are truly rooted in who we are and what we believe, we can go securely in situations where people don’t share our belief, and not be worried or even intimidated into altering our own perspective, but rather, learning from others, and being ok with people not believing the same as you, are things that are brought forth, not just in Look For the Good the album, but throughout all of Jason’s discography, full-stop.
And even through all these introspective and heartfelt songs I’ve heard in Jason’s discography (some of which have been aforementioned above and discussed) have championed Jason’s music as a whole, I still keep coming back to ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, in the best possible way ever. These two songs embody what it means to write a song devoted to the other, for self-less reasons, than a lot of the songs right now that are for more self-ish reasons. Both the two most popular songs paint a great picture to what Jason’s music is about, and I’ll say in every circumstance, to check out these two tracks, and then carry on from there. Even the duet with Sara Bareilles, ‘You Matter to Me’ (a song more primarily sung by Jason than Sara), a song from the 2015 album What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, is a song I’d point people to when trying to discover Jason’s music- for this song is also a track that means something to someone when they hear it. For people to hear that they matter to someone is huge- for love, acceptance, and the need to feel appreciated and be said the words ‘well done’ is something much more monumental to someone than giving them advice. That’s the truth. And so, such a song as this, is a challenge for us to love people and tell them they matter, as Jesus would’ve done it. That’s the challenge and goal for us all. And it is in this reflection of this song, that I place this track, alongside ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, as my favourite songs by Jason, ever!
‘…transformation is my favorite game, and in my experience, anger and frustration are the result of you not being authentic somewhere in your life or with someone in your life. Being fake about anything creates a block inside of you. Life can’t work for you if you don’t show up as you… I’ve come to the conclusion- that people who wear headphones while they walk, are much happier, more confident, and more beautiful individuals than someone making the solitary drudge to work without acknowledging their own interests and power…because I trust in the ever-changing climate of the heart. (At least, today I feel that way.) I think it is necessary to have many experiences for the sake of feeling something; for the sake of being challenged, and for the sake of being expressive, to offer something to someone else, to learn what we are capable of…another year is fast approaching. Go be that starving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel. You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on 15 televisions at TGI Fridays. Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene. Be the change you want to see in the world…’
These little quotes by Jason Mraz that I discovered on GoodReads is something unique and impactful, a reminder that even the famous have something good to say than the songs that we hear each day. Jason’s discography is some of hope and excitement, of being reflective, all the while having fun and cherishing the life we lead. While I am not sure about the religious affiliation of Jason’s music, or Jason himself, I still firmly believe that many of his songs do in fact have some godly influence, even if Jason doesn’t know it. There are bible verses reminding me of the theme about ‘The Remedy’, about how we shouldn’t worry, that worrying doesn’t add even one iota to your life. For Jason’s body of work, as sparse as it is (7 albums within about 19 years), it’s songs that need to be listened to again and again, to be reflected upon and enjoyed, but also to take action when we do hear songs like ‘I Won’t Give Up’ or ‘You Matter To Me’- to speak words of life to people because what we say does matter to who we’re saying it to. Jason’s influence in the world is not based on album sales, or even artist popularity. It’s the songs and the meanings of them, and the reasons why people listen to music in the first place. Jason’s ability to craft something worth listening to again and having a great replay value, makes me assert this one statement that I’ve observed, that Jason, in all of his music, is perhaps the mainstream version of someone like Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North. Just a thought, a wild one, but nevertheless, something that has been circling in my mind of late. Jason’s craft need not be dismissed, purely on the fact of his chart-topping songs of ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’, and only these two songs. Just because an artist only has two standout songs in their career doesn’t make them any less influential than someone that has twenty. I know controversial, but, most likely true. Sales do not equate to influence, people’s lives changed do.
Does Jason Mraz and his music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up’; that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!