Jason Mraz seems wide-eyed, optimistic and full of love. He is hopeful for the future and wants to share that hope with the world. The “I’m Yours” singer is almost incapable of producing negativity, and this lack of conflict and tension in his music often works to his detriment.
There is a lot to be said about Mraz’s new album, Look For the Good. It is boring, unimaginative, naive and tone-deaf. Yes, it is technically competent. It does what it sets out to do. Mraz is clearly a talented singer. But the overwhelming, forced positivity of the album is suffocating. And the constant sound of a very repetitive branch of reggae — the upstrokes, the unassuming horns — can only hold the listener for so long.
For an album so long, Look For the Good isn’t overindulgent. Often, with bad, lengthy records, the artist tries to do too much, resulting in a bloated, ugly project. Mraz’s problem is the exact opposite: He tries to do too little, and stretches his laziness across an entire album. It is the opposite of bloated — it is starved. It needs something — anything — to do, but Mraz refuses to allow that.
One of Mraz’s biggest weaknesses is a refusal to hand a song over to the music. He always needs to be singing, or humming, or doing a weird, Anthony Kiedis-style scat rap, such as on “Make Love.” The music has no time to breathe.
Even then, though, there is nothing terribly interesting about the instrumentation. It is standard, algorithmically-designed reggae. It is overproduced, and has little to no character to it. “Good Old Daze” is particularly boring, almost insulting in the plainness with which it presents itself.
When Mraz does sing, his voice is at war with his lyrics. While espousing passionate lyrics about life and light and love, the singer sounds downright uninterested. He is simply going through the motions, which is a shame, because the clarity with which Mraz sings provides a lot of potential.
Mraz is not the album’s only offender — one would be remiss not to mention Tiffany Haddish’s atrocious feature on “You Do You,” which sounds like a verse that was cut from a rough draft of “Hamilton.”
Thematically, Look For the Good is devoid of anything but the worst cliches. The lyrics induce eye rolls and head shakes. They range from simply empty to borderline laughable, such as, “I do my thing taking risks, taking chances” on “You Do You,” a perplexing claim to originality that is somehow lost on the man singing it.
Later in the album, Mraz sinks into new age ideas, particularly on “Wise Woman,” where he sings about “A high vibration healer/ Dealin’ herbal remedies.” On Look For the Good’s eponymous first track, he delivers one of the corniest platitudes on the album, singing “Everyone is love and light and vibration.”
Mraz is able to experiment toward the end of the album, though he does so with mixed results. “DJ FM AM JJASON” has a great little riff that endearingly sounds like the jingle for a news station. On the other hand, the gimmick in “Hearing Double,” where Mraz sings every word twice, is tiresome and annoying — likely the reason it’s the album’s shortest track.
“The Minute I Heard of Love,” the album’s penultimate song, does deviate from formula in the slightest way — only musically, of course. Mraz is still singing the same tired song about the same tired, faux-inspirational themes. The same can be said for “Gratitude,” which nearly ventures into new musical territory as a piano ballad before falling into the same basic tropes Mraz has set for himself.
There is a world in which Look For the Good is a fantastic act of satire. It could be construed as a condemnation of a society able to produce an album so disgustingly saccharine, a musical combination of “Starship Troopers” and “Candide” that condemns the overwhelming positivity it appears to advocate for.
However, Mraz is incapable of satire. He is so painfully sincere that his work cannot possibly be misconstrued as nuanced. It is exactly what it claims to be: a sappy, sweet, naive vision of what the world could be. Is it well-intentioned? Sure. But good music? That, it cannot be.