Album Review: Jason Mraz, “Waiting For My Rocket To Come” (2002)

I can’t remember exactly where I was in 2002 when I first heard The Remedy (I Won’t Worry) playing on the radio, but I specifically remember taking note of the song and immediately liking it. Soon after, I learned that the upbeat single was a product of Jason Mraz, a fresh face in the “guitar-playing, singer-songwriting” genre. Mraz, who had been making music since 1999, finally hit the mainstream with his major label debut, Waiting For My Rocket To Come. Though I’ve been a fan of his radio singles for the past four years or so, I’ve finally had a chance to pick up his debut and I was pleasantly surprised.

The album begins with You and I Both, which was released as the album’s third single. With a mid-tempo beat and soft vocals, the song was probably an easy hit on the Adult Contemporary charts, though I was never a big fan. Though Mraz penned the track himself, he moves on to write better and more significant lyrics as the album goes on. Next up is I’ll Do Anything, which picks up the tempo a bit (with a reggae inspired beat), but still isn’t a stand out track. This time around, the lyrical content is a bit better as Mraz sings about “doing anything” in order to get his dream girl to take notice of him. However, the sweet sentiment still fails to make the song interesting enough for repeated listens.

Finally, we reach The Remedy, which as I mentioned earlier, was the album’s lead single. I think everyone has heard this song numerous times, and I know I’ve listened to enough in the past years, however I’ve honestly never grown tired of it. From the bouncy guitar driven melody, to Mraz’s breezy vocals, it’s easy to see why this song was such a hit, but it’s definitely the optimistic and carefree attitude of the song that makes it a favorite. Mraz reportedly wrote the song for a friend whom was diagnosed with cancer, and he seems to be giving him encouragement as he cries in the chorus, “I won’t worry my life away”. My favorite lines lie in the bridge (“When I fall in love/I take my time/There’s no need to hurry when I’m making up my mind/You can turn off the sun/But I’m still gonna shine”), and after a few listens, you can’t help but admire Mraz’s happy-go-lucky mood.

Who Needs Shelter follows and also happens to be another one of my favorite. The song opens with the ukulele and acoustic guitar, setting a mellow vibe for the song. Though Mraz never does much outstanding vocally, his voice has a great tone and is always pleasant to listen to, and this song does a great job of highlighting his vocal strengths. The mood picks back up with Curbside Prophet, another song that was released as a single. This time the banjo is showcased, and despite the twangy, pseudo-Country sound, Mraz actually comes close to rapping during the verses and the bridge. The lively and upbeat melody is even better paired with the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and you can almost see the smirk on Mraz’s face as he sings lines like, “Dangerous on the mic/My ghetto hat’s cocked right/All the ladies say,/’Yo, that kid is CRAZY!'”.

Sleep All Day is another relaxing mid-tempo track, and begins with Mraz doing a bit of scatting before starting with the first verse. Again, his vocals are soft and alluring and set the mood for a song that makes me actually feel lazy enough to sleep all day. Too Much Food begins with a nice guitar hook and leads way into a hilarious song which uses food metaphors as a way to describe Mraz’s outlook on his life. Mraz’s lyrics are once again the strength of the song and lines like “You can say that I’m one curly fry in the box of the regular/Messing with the flavor, oh the flavor that you savor/Saving me for last, but you better not eat me at all/Living in a fast food bag making friends with the ketchup and salt” continue to make me smile.

Flickr - moses namkung - Jason Mraz 3

Absolutely Zero arrives as one of the few ballads on the album, and is another favorite. Though the track becomes a bit dreary musically (the soft guitar and depressing chorus mostly contribute to this feeling), the lyrics are again the strength as Mraz tackles the end of a relationship and who’s to blame (“Well neither one of us deserves the blame because opportunities moved us away/And it’s not an easy thing to learn to play a game that’s made for two that’s you and me/The rules remain a mystery/See it was so easy.”)

The album then moves to what I’d like to call “Meh” territory; On Love, In Sadness and No Stopping Us are both likable, upbeat songs, but neither of them are memorable enough for me to care about. The first of the two has a peppy beat, but is so forgettable that as soon as the song ends, I’ve forgotten entirely how the melody went. No Stopping Us has a bouncy late 70’s/early 80’s feel to it that actually becomes a bit annoying towards the chorus. The song is almost too peppy for its own good, but all the same, I’ve never felt the need to skip the track when listening to the album. At the same time, I’ve also never felt the need to skip ahead to this particular song.

The second ballad emerges with The Boy’s Gone. Much like Absolutely Zero, this track is a delight and another one of my favorites. The melody is simply composed of guitars, drums, and organ and does become a bit redundant after a few minutes (though the sound actually reminds me of something by Ben Folds Five), and the lyrics are again the best part of the song. Mraz paints the picture of someone finally coming to terms with who and what they are and giving up on trying to be something else (” I’m gonna be happy with the way that I am/I’m gonna be happy with all that I stand for/I’m gonna be happy now because the boy’s going home”). Even though it proves to be a bit unexpected on such a lighthearted album, the track is beautifully written and is one of the album’s stand-out songs.

The album ends with Tonight, Not Again. For once, it’s the melody and not the lyrics that draw me into this track. Besides the acoustic guitar there are several African instruments used, including the djembe (a hand drum), the ebo, and shakers and tambourines, which give the song a nice, exotic feel. It’s certainly one of my favorite songs to listen to, and Mraz’s vocals are nicely highlighted again.

Waiting On My Rocket To Come is a great debut album, with a surprise mixture of radio-friendly hits and well-written songs that have wonderful replay value. Mraz and producer John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band., John Mayer, David Gray) do a great job of blending a pop/rock sound and putting something unique into each and every track.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. You And I Both
2. I’ll Do Anything
3. The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)
4. Who Needs Shelter
5. Curbside Prophet
6. Sleep All Day
7. Too Much Food
8. Absolutely Zero
9. On Love, In Sadness
10. No Stopping Us
11. The Boy’s Gone
12. Tonight, Not Again


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