With his fourth studio album, "Love Is a Four Letter Word" (Atlantic), Jason Mraz successfully makes the transition from being simply clever to being deep.
On his early albums, the singer-songwriter seemed far more concerned with words than melodies, more interested in playing around than conveying emotion.
That's all different now. Mraz, perhaps buoyed by his record-setting smash "I'm Yours," is now writing his own rules. The album's first single, "I Won't Give Up," is a beautiful, slow, acoustic ballad -- the exact opposite of what most radio programmers are looking for these days. It unfolds at its own emotional pace, with no Mraz-ian wordplay, only lyrics carefully chosen for maximum impact.
He can still turn a phrase, as he does in the poignant "Frank D. Fixer," a song about his self-sufficient grandfather, and he is still attracted to the island-tinged lilt of "I'm Yours," which is a bit more pronounced here on "The Freedom Song" and "Living in the Moment."
What Mraz does on the gorgeous "Be Honest," though, is a whole new level for him. With the help of Inara George, it floats between the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love?" and the lush Brazilian pop of Caetano Veloso. The same goes for "Everything Is Sound," a deceptively simple ballad that grows into a grand sing-along.
While "I'm Yours" established Mraz as a hit maker, "Love Is a Four Letter Word" should establish him as a bona fide artist.
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"Love Is a Four Letter Word"
BOTTOM LINE The "I'm Yours" singer finds himself