<This post originally appeared on (hopefully) soon-to-be-resurrected website ‘The Grain’>
I don’t really like writing negative things about shit music. However, I have just heard a song on the radio so bad that I have been moved – physically moved to write about it. The song in question is ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz. Where to begin? Having not heard the song before, I had to find a video on YouTube (click on Mraz’s face above) to confirm my initial reaction that this song would comfortably sit atop the pile of ‘worst songs I’ve ever heard.’ It did. It does. There are probably more annoying songs, more clumsily written lyrics, songs that inspire outright hatred etc, but the thing that gets me about ‘I’m Yours’ is that it is, from start to finish, totally devoid of any meaning whatsoever. Now, I know I’m at risk of sounding pretentious. I know that this is ‘just a pop song’ and many would moot that ‘meaning’ is not necessary (or crucial) in such an art form. It is what it is – a fairly innocuous, summer pop tune. This stance I am vehemently opposed to. Every song must mean something – it is the only currency for measuring the value of music. It is clear from listening to (and actually watching the video for) this song that no thought or meaning has been given to the chords, arrangement, lyrics and delivery of this song. It is meaningless (I can’t stress this point enough – I will continue to make this point!) it is valueless. It is shite. That it is a ‘pop song’ is no excuse. What Mraz has done, and it seems to be quite a common mistake by all accounts, is he has mistaken the concepts of ‘fell-good’, ‘easy-going’, ‘laid-back’, ‘Summer-y’, and ‘honest’ for ‘inane’, ‘repetitive’, ‘self-indulgent’, ‘smug’ and ‘shite’. But to the details. Here is a not exhaustive list of the things that upset me (and this is an accurate word for how this song makes me feel) about the song.
Firstly, the chord sequence utilised by Mraz. Basically, without getting too technical, its C, G, Aminor, F – the most used chord sequence of all time,[i] from Pachelbel’s Canon to ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day. So used is this four-chord-trick that it has become a short-hand (at least in my head) for ‘I haven’t really thought very hard about the song I am writing.’ That Mraz has opted to use this chord sequence for both verse and chorus further emphasises this point. In the video below, which clocks in at over eight minutes long, Mraz must play each chord, in total, for no less than two whole minutes. Eight minutes. Four chords. Surely no-one is arrogant enough to think an audience wants to hear four chords repeated monotonously for eight whole minutes. Mraz is. That’s probably the second most annoying thing about this song, Mraz himself. I knew just from hearing the song on the radio that he was the type of person who would champion the ‘twhat’[ii], and, from the evidence in this video, I was proved more right than I could have imagined. Throughout the video he wears a sort of permanent expression of smug, self-satisfaction that is deeply infuriating. It is as if he has just discovered that not only does he love the smell of his own farts, but that a pole has recently been taken and it has been decided that his farts are the most pleasant aroma ever produced and Chanel want to bottle them as a high end ‘eau de toilette’. Or something. The peak of Mraz’s smug-fest comes at around six minutes when he removes said ‘twhat’ in a ‘not-at-all-contrived-hitting-a-high-note’ section that is neither technically impressive, nor aesthetically gratifying, yet Mraz is utterly convinced is both. He almost looks as if he is thinking “Hell, even I don’t know how I got this good”.
The great comedian George Carlin (RIP) once said that white people have no business singing the blues. “White people” he said, “give people the blues, they don’t get the blues”. Whilst a contentious point[iii], I would like to take the general sentiment to form my own maxim: white people have no business singing scat. Mraz does. Mraz does in a portion of the song so incomprehensibly shite that I am finding it hard to put it into words. Sufficed to say, it almost literally causes me physical pain.
Finally, and possibly most irksome of all, the lyrics. I know that taking song lyrics out of context is unfair but, if you haven’t heard the song, believe me – within the context of being sung by Mraz, they are much worse. In the opening stanza, Mraz affects a pseudo-patois-esque lexicon which, if I were Jamaican (which I am far from being) I would find racist. In the second verse, Mraz asks us to “open up your mind and see like me, open up your plans and then you’re free… it’s our godforsaken right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved”. Aside from the fact that godforsaken means ‘desolate’ or ‘neglected’, and that he means ‘God-given’ – what does the rest of it MEAN?! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! Love is good? Well, thanks a fucking bunch Jason. I don’t think anyone else had spotted that until you mentioned it in this song. You really are excellent.
So, anyway, that’s that. This song is shite. Does it make me feel better writing about how shite it is? Not really. But unless someone says something, he gets away with it doesn’t he? Watch the video. Watch all eight minutes. I dare you. I bet you can’t do it without saying “you twat”. But really, you won’t be watching anything at all. Because this song has no meaning. It doesn’t really exist. At least that’s how I reassure myself anyway.
[i] Or some transposition thereof. Its chords ‘I, V, VI, IV’ of the major scale anyway. The only other possible contender for most over-used chord sequence would be I, VI, IV, V – or C, Am, F, G. This chord sequence was used at the A section for pretty much all doo-wop songs. I know it may seem like a pedantic thing to get worked up about, but I really hate the former (Mraz et al and their C,G,Am,F) but really love the latter (doo-wop’s C,Am,F,G). One possible explanation (that I’ve just thought of now) is that, usually, in songs that use the former, they tend to use only that chord sequence – as in ‘Canon’ and ‘Basket Case’, whereas the latter (and this is most notable in Doo-Wop) tend to have a distinct B section to break up the song.
[ii] This rather contrived, yet totally necessary and apt word comes from the Viz ‘Profanisaurus Rex’. It means ‘a twatish hat’ (a contraction of the words ‘twat’ and ‘hat’). You know that straw cowboy hat Bono wears? That’s a ‘twhat’.
[iii] Although I can’t think of many good, white blues singers – any suggestions?