There is something about final songs that often make them more compelling to me than the opening tracks of albums.
"Shine", the closing track from Jason Mraz’s latest studio album Yes! is way more engaging than his lead single "Love Someone". I remember listening to “Love Someone” for the first time in quiet anticipation, and then vague disbelief. I immediately messaged my colleague cum music lover and said that the song is essentially aural cotton candy.
For someone who has every one of his albums, this seems to mark the complete transition of Jason Mraz. From the early days of youthful optimism tinged with playful defiance and creative (and sometimes, smart-aleck) wordplay, he has become a true-blue adult contemporary artist belting out mushy, easy-listening love songs (Sample lyrics from “Love Someone”: “When you love someone/your feet can’t touch the ground/Shining stars all seem/To congregate around your face.”)
The good news is, things got better from there.
I discovered the other single "Long Drive", which I liked immediately. And then, it was "Hello, You Beautiful Thing", which I can’t help singing along to. I went ahead to purchase the album on the first day of its release, 15 July 2014 and was pleasantly surprised. Mraz’s playfulness is intact in "Everywhere", “Best Friend” was catchy and "A World With You" is well, beautiful. Of course, I also noticed “Shine”.
It took a few repeats for me to like it. But from the first listen, it was already more interesting than most other tracks: The opening sounded almost eerie, especially because I was listening to it late in the night, while studying statistics. I paused and looked up from the textbook. It got my attention from the start. And I really like it when pop songs incorporate Asian musical instruments. In this case, it’s the sitar and some kind of tribal drum.
The song is about selfless love as told through a story of the sun and moon, and of how love will reach all of us, like the rays of the sun or the glow of the moon. The album ends with a bang, and I hope that it’s a hint of what’s to come in Mraz’s next album.
This album is that it’s Mraz’s most mellow and lovey-dovey effort to date. Even the imagery he evokes are of the dreamy, romantic sort: the sun, the moon, the snow, the songbird etc. This is destined to be played at weddings all over the world.
There will be some early fans who feel disappointed that he has gone the easy-listening way and others, especially female fans, who think it’s really romantic. As for me, I’m not complaining. Even “Love Someone” has grown on me, although only as a soothing song and nothing more. Like cotton candy, it is delish in snatches but at the back of my mind, I know it is sugar and air and very little else.
My guess is: Mraz is still sharp; he can still be quirky. But perhaps he has decided to place something else above all this
And I feel quite foolish
sometimes when I pray
But my thoughts are all I’ve got
so I try to make them brave
His songs are melodies of acknowledgement, affirmation and encouragement to his listeners who are trying to be brave. Of course, one can say he is simply pandering to mass tastes, and writing what he thinks the mass audience wants. But they did cheer me up when I had to endure 2 weeks of chickenpox and quarantine, which became a literal nightmare (I dreamed that the poxes came back just as the old ones have dried up).
"Comforting" is the word to describe how I felt as the songs accompany me through this period. It just seems to be me that the artistic creativity and emotional appeal of music are equally important. Rare are those who can achieve both at the same time.
Song: Shine by Jason Mraz