Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
The exclamation point that punctuates its title suggests Jason Mraz may be a little enthusiastic on Yes! but that's a feint, hiding how this 2014 record is the next logical step on the singer/songwriter's road of seduction. Gone is the celebrated wordplay, a self-conscious maturation that was perhaps inevitable, but also absent are the smooth soul flourishes of 2012's Love Is a Four Letter Word. Those slow grooves underscored how Mraz embraced his role as a middlebrow make-out king in the wake of the success of "I'm Yours," but Yes! feels like a truer follow-up to that 2009 hit than the 2012 LP because it emphasizes Jason Mraz the sensitive singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar slung across his shoulders.
"Fall out of bed and catch a fading star/Fancy I woke up before my alarm," Jason Mraz sings over bouncy strumming on "Hello, You Beautiful Thing." The adult-contemporary singer has won huge success radiating glazed contentment on songs like his reggae-tinged 2008 hit "I'm Yours." His fifth LP is his most serenely psyched yet, an acoustic set full of bright, clean folk pop delivered with yoga-bro positivity. There's a somber, nearly a cappella take on the Motown oldie "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," and "Quiet" laments suburban sprawl – but those are rare chin-down moments for a guy who makes Jack Johnson look like Ian Curtis. .
Early in his career, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz developed a style that was equal parts clever and aloof, using reggae and rap influences to create a sound that felt very emblematic of the San Diego culture from which he emerged. In the wake of his hit “I'm Yours,” a tribute to monogamy, his songs have grown ever more tender—paeans to the wonders of love and happiness. And on his fifth album, Yes!, Mraz has turned his unending optimism toward even the most dour of subjects: breakups, death, and the corporate destruction of nature.
This San Diego-bred singer-songwriter has quietly settled into position as one of pop’s premier sensitive strummers — his 2008 lite-rock ditty “I’m Yours” held Billboard’s record for Hot 100 longevity until earlier this year—but on his fifth album he introduces a new element: a foil in the form of Los Angeles-based folkies Raining Jane, who serve as Mraz’s backing band throughout this album. “YES!” has the sweet-voiced troubadour sounding reenergized, with his collaborators (and producer/Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis) rounding out his sound with bits of cello and ukulele, as well as well-placed backing vocals. The mix works particularly well on the aging rumination “Quiet,” on which Raining Jane’s smeared choir echoes a slide guitar, and the pleasantly rambling “Drive,” which opens up into a highway-worthy romantic anthem midway through.
Ed Sheeran was only 11 years old when Jason Mraz released his major-label debut in 2002. But over the last few years the young British singer has risen quickly to challenge Mraz’s once-secure position as music’s go-to acoustic folk-pop guy. This month Sheeran’s “x” entered the Billboard album chart at No. 1 with sales of 210,000 copies – more than twice as many as Mraz’s last record sold in its first week in stores in 2012.