By Chris Ernst
We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, Jason Mraz’s third studio album, blends hip-hop and musicality in a way only he can. He also branches out into other genres more accessible to the listening public.
One of Mraz’s signature abilities is writing rhymes rappers would revel in but delivering them in catchy melodies that lodge themselves in your brain.
We Steal Things is more than rapid-fire rhymes. There is a heavy dose of acoustic guitar-driven tunes suitable for the lazy afternoons in the sun, and there are horns and strings to shake it all up.
We Steal Things is a portrait of a person which follows the ups and downs of everyday life. The troubles Jason Mraz discusses are very accessible and real.
The album does not make grand statements about politics or society, but speaks instead to the average person with daily troubles.
He’s your best friend, your crying shoulder, and your confidante. He sings about life and the woes of relationships, but also their joys.
The album, however, is not without quirks. The lyrics aren’t always serious (or in English).
They sometimes make sense when put in context with the song but sometimes don’t add meaning to the song at all.
The comparisons between any of Jack Johnson’s albums and parts of We Steal Things are hard to avoid. These are the newer elements, and everything seems to mesh better than genre-bending melodic rap.
With the fast and hard lyrics gone, and the tempo slowed from “rush” to “chill,” Mraz’s tranquil tenor breathes emotion.
His nimble falsetto, paired with a good, albeit inconsistent, use of his passaggio, create a far more complex and solid vocal than Jack Johnson could ever produce.
Unfortunately he sometimes mistakes being close to the microphone for conveying emotion.
Most of the tracks on We Steal Things feel substantial. There are a few songs that are sonically similar and feel like filler. At a scant twelve tracks and fifty minutes, it’s understandable that Mraz started reaching for material.
The most standout tracks are “Make It Mine,” “I’m Yours,” “Love for a Child,” “Details in the Fabric,” “The Dynamo of Volition” and “A Beautiful Mess.”
“Make It Mine” is a peppy way to open the album. The first lyric is “Wake up everyone/ How can you sleep at a time like this?/ …/ Taste past the tip of your tongue,” which sums up the message of the album.
“I’m Yours” is the most bonfire-at-the-beach and the most like Jack Johnson that Jason Mraz gets on the album.
It’s a feel-good song about trying to act cool when you like someone a lot. “I tried to be chill but you’re so hot that I melted”. When he tries to talk to her, he can’t form words or a coherent thought. All he can manage is some scatting.
“Love for a Child” is all about Jason’s parents getting a divorce and his growing up having to endure it.
The song is from a child’s point of view, innocent and lacking understanding.
It is by far the most outrightly melancholy of the songs on this album. He rationalizes that the divorce occurred so that he wouldn’t be in a hostile home environment.
“Details in the Fabric” is what a best friend would tell a depressed friend. “Hold your own/ Know your name/ Go your own way/ …/Everything will be fine.” It gently encourages to persist and stay strong.
The guest vocals of English singer/songwriter James Morrison blend seamlessly with Mraz’s in a cocoon of soft acoustic guitar and hope.
“The Dynamo of Volition” is a track in the vein of what you would expect from Jason Mraz. There are about three times as many words in this song than any other pop song.
It is the best representation of Mraz on this album, both stylistically and personally.
His fast-flowing lyrics are about himself and are delivered in two oscillating styles. Sometimes there is classically defined accompaniment with drums, guitars and violins; at other times, it’s an electronically-generated beat.
The two styles come, go and mix with each other and showcase the way Mraz is influenced by both pop and hip-hop.
“A Beautiful Mess” is an angst-filled song about a rocky relationship. She says mean things and is contradicting. By the end, however, “the wait was so worth it.”
By introducing one of the darker moments at the end of the album and resolving it, the whole album is given a cathartic closure.
By taking his own advice and following his heart, he proves what he said all throughout the album; everything will be alright, even though sometimes life sucks.