We Sing, We Dance, We Write Things

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17th of November 2014 at Star Vista Performing Arts Centre

I just came back from watching the second Jason Mraz concert in my life, and what can I say? The man has done it again, with a performance as good if not better than the last time I saw him in 2012. It was pretty good to put it mildly. He was funny, had an awesome band that tours with him and has vastly improved on his self image from the last time. And yes, his voice. It carves wisps of magic in the air and envelopes me in past memories and made me smile.

I have always been into Mraz. Since I’m Yours and Lucky came out I listened to him intently and this was back in secondary 2. Then I got his 2008 album we sing, we dance, we steal things. I got hooked onto the songs on that album and when I started my research on his previous studio albums I naturally went further and uncovered all his EPs and live albums. I knew there was no way back. I fell in love with his music.

This man started out as a romantic, and a really cool one as such. Yet there was a vulnerable side to him which I admired as well. He often went full confidence and happy ending-y on one song then went absolutely melancholic in another. He focused on his positivity as much as his down falls. He sang 1000 things tonight, which was a pleasant blast from the past about how a thousand things in a room wouldn’t distract him from the girl he loved. The song doesn’t have a firm resolution; you aren’t sure weather he gets this girl in the end but there are hints at romance fulfilled in how he is kisses her and she kisses him back. It sounds like things are getting on but that probably wasn’t the intention of the song. It portrayed more of the hope and optimism his adoration for a girl had granted him with, the same feelings that I felt listening to this as a young 15 year old in what I thought was love.

His other songs that brought me to places that I otherwise couldn’t have gone in my youth played on cue and I could feel myself mouthing out the words without really meaning to. It’s just that these words are deep in my memory. The desperation of Mr curiosity, the yearning to go out there and make it mine. The eagerness to watch things in my life unfold. The songs had this way of speaking to me in the past and they spoke to me now. The feelings that I felt and the comfort that I attained all came rushing back like blood into a numbed limb.

He talked a lot about his song writing process as well, which was something new coming from him. I never did think of him as a man with a pen but there he was talking about how it all came from experience. He said something along those lines: that the best thing you can do when you get writers block, is to write about writers block. Write about the struggle you face and what you experienced from it and you will  have your very own story to share. He said something close to that and as it turns out, Mr Curiosity was written during a period of his life that he felt ‘stuck’. It’s an interesting theory, and perhaps it is true in some cases. When we face a bump in the road we focus too much on how to get over the bump, rather than how the bump can help us grow as people. I may be totally misinterpreting the words he spoke but I hazard an intelligent guess that he was trying to get to that. You have to see your problems as opportunities instead of hindrances. That must have been one of his sources of great music.

He also kept emphasizing the imagery of the elusive rainbow over your bed. It’s not like I wake up every morning with a rainbow over my bed. The songs I write, however, often do feature this rainbow we all want to see, but sometimes I have to create it, because there are days when you can only see dark clouds, but then that’s when I get inspired to write about days when there isn’t this rainbow. It sounded so simple when he put it that way. Perhaps this rainbow was a metaphor for the positivity and goodness in life, and his songs do generally tend towards such an ideal. A lot of his new songs celebrate this ‘rainbow’ or at least the brilliant potential of it once you have it on your life.

But some of his songs do feature the dark clouds, and it’s really no surprise, for Mr. Mraz did consider suicide once in his career. I read in an article a few years ago that he couldn’t see any light at the end of his tunnel and felt that his illustrious career gave him little to no fulfillment. It may have been due to his breakup with his fiancée, a crushing blow to his romantic ideals that fuelled his earlier music. Or it could have just been a midlife crisis, but he did feel the darkness creep in once, and he saved himself through changing the style and theme of his music. He grew flowing locks and a beard. His songs featured deeper ideals of peace and staying together in times of trouble. He added a quarter cup of Bob Marley and a teaspoon of John Lennon to complement his romantic tendencies. He told the world that he wouldn’t be giving up, and how we should embrace the sunlight from 93 million miles away. He then marched on from there to produce his latest album; the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow titled YES! He picked himself up and wrote some great songs that came directly from how he felt and not what he wanted us to feel. That’s what I feel is so unique about this man. He doesn’t just write to please us and gain credibility. It’s almost as if he writes to catalogue his mindset at a certain phase in his life. He writes to tell himself that it is perfectly alright to feel human once in a while.

I’m not trying to advertise here, but all I can say is, this new album is worth a listen. It lacks the pop elements of the latest Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, or The Script albums, and doesn’t feature the intense range of Sam Smith. What it is, though, is a very down to earth, heartwarming plea to stay true to our roots. Back to the Earth , Quiet, and 3 Things questions the use of pursuing a materialistic and fast paced life. It encourages us to hang on to our roots in fast changing times and remember to acknowledge the people who have always been there for you. You can Rely on Me, Love someone and A World with You preaches not just a romantic relationship but deeper values like care for one another and having each others back in this world. All in all, what I feel is, while a lot of new music encourages listeners to get high and forget everything, Mraz is doing the exact opposite. He wants us to consider our values and slow down for a minute, to think about someone who cares about you and who you care about as well. To treasure your time and make the most of everything. That is something about this album that I have found invaluable.

During the concert he asks everyone to close their eyes and hum a tune. A soft and melodic tune that he leads us in. He talks of a rainbow again, and how he needs this rainbow in his life and lives positively to enforce this. That if you’re feeling down it’s best to find other people who feel down and be sad together and know you aren’t alone. It’s like a giant therapy session and though I am not in a particularly ‘dark’ period of my life I can appreciate where this is coming from.

This is a singer who has grown through the times. From when I first discovered him as a hopelessly naive 14 year old to now, a (slightly) more mature 20 year old, he has changed from the obsessed romantic to the active humanitarian, motivational speaker and fervent optimist. He has seen the highest heights and lowest depths. I feel like I didn’t just grow up with his songs, I grew up with his ideals as well. That is a connection that can’t be easily broken. Sure, I do bob my head and close my eyes and drift to different places to the new Maroon 5 singles and Echosmith is an up and coming band I enjoy. But nothing can give me the deep feeling of contentment I get from listening to Mr A-Z sing about his life.

The lights shine on Jason Mraz and his band, and they take their final bows. A few people stand up at first and before long the whole theatre is on their feet giving him a final standing ovation. He waves at us and the crowd gives the loudest cheer I can recall. I remember how he was barefoot in 2012 and had a head full of shaggy hair and a large beard. Here he was again, this time with nice shoes on and a clean shaven face with a neat haircut. He was crisp and came with an acoustic set as opposed to his rock and jazz set two years back. He could come again in the next 2, 6 even 10 years and have a dead racoon as a hat, and you can be sure I’ll still be there, listening to his stories and his path through life. And you can bet I will still be thinking; here is a man worth listening to.

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