Jason Mraz is no stranger to optimism. At this point in his career, the singer-songwriter’s unabashed commitment to positivity has become his undisputed artistic signature rather than a trendy gimmick or lyrical trick.
Mraz’s musical resumé overflows with easygoing, groove-filled tracks that prop up his encouraging love songs. Look for the Good is no different. Steeped in a smooth reggae vibe, the album is Mraz’s latest renewal of his recycled messages of love and kindess.
No one could have predicted the world’s current climate middway through this difficult 2020. But Mraz’s central theme of finding the good in these difficulties is a welcome reminder, especially when the world may tell us something different.
The album begins with its titular track, “Look for the Good.” And if we didn’t quite get that message from the album’s title, Mraz opens and concludes the first and final songs with that repeated line, “Look for the good.” The songs here explore how Mraz manages to look for the good despite less than favorable circumstances.
“Gratitude” is the album’s final track and functions as Mraz’s concluding remark. He thumbs through old, haunting memories of bullies abusing him in high school, as well as his parent’s divorce. Yet he looks for the good in these moments. He sends his thanks because, he confesses, “They shaped my life/They made me like who I’ve become/They make me love who I am.”
On “My Kind,” Mraz sums up the catalog of differences between humans by saying, “You are uniquely/You just like everyone else.” This sentiment pops up again on that track with the lines, “We are united by our differences/Our different kinds of interests.” “Make Love” likewise offers a plea for global peace as Mraz strives to convince listeners “we don’t need another war.”
“You Do You” admits, “I can only be how God made me.” Mraz also sings about finding common ground in his family roots, even amid disagreements: “I might be different from the people in my family/But the truth is their roots keep grounding me.” Where this opposition might otherwise cause negative emotion, he spins their differences into positive reflections and realities to be celebrated.
“Wise Woman” “Hearing Double” and “The Minute I Heard of Love” make up a trio of romantic songs. It’s clear Mraz is infatuated with a woman, and his attraction and affection appears to be focused on her character, rather than appearance.
Look for the Good is relatively free from the explicit content usually found in the lyrics of Mraz’s pop contemporaries. Other than a double use of the word “a–,” there is no profanity.
Keeping consistent with the reggae promotions of peace and love, Mraz hovers near pantheistic theologies built upon contemporary expressions of tolerance rather than on biblical truth.
This translates into bubbly lyrics such as, “Everyone is nature, everyone is god/Everyone is love and light and vibration” on the opening track. “Make Love” insinuates that we are created by Mother Nature and she “didn’t make us to be murdering.” The repeated titular phrase on that track, “Make love, make love, not war,” likewise recapitulates that popular ’60s countercultural slogan, offering no context for sexual boundaries (i.e., marriage) on the lovemaking it advocates. On “DJ FM AM JJASON” Mraz sings, “Like the goddesses and gods, I know my spirit is ancient.”
Elsewhere, “Wise Woman” compares his partner to a mythological “green garden goddess” who spends her time “dealin’ herbal remedies.” “Time Out” also contains mentions of illicit substances such as “vape or steam” among other references.
A fusion of reggae with pop is hardly a surprise for an artist of Mraz’s caliber. There have always been jazzy elements to Mraz’s melodic lyrics. In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Mraz says, “’I do know I’m treading on sacred ground.’” He goes on to say, “… Reggae has historically sung (about) peace and love, comfort and healing. And that’s what I’m trying to do with this album.”
Mraz released his latest effort on June 19th—Juneteenth—the day celebrating the actual emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865. Accordingly, the singer announced that he’ll donate all of his royalties and proceeds from the album to charities. Mraz’s example is an admirable extension of generally redemptive and generous themes within his songs—with the exception of some pantheistic lyrics that parents of younger Jason Mraz fans will want to talk through with them.