Roundtable Talk: “Work in Progress”

Before the music gets ahead of me,
Let me jog your memory
A lot of you still know me as the kid who had the remedy.”

Artist: Jason Mraz
“Work in Progress”

Song Meaning

Chronicling two decades of wordplay.

A worthy anthology.

When you enjoy an artist’s music for a long while, most of the excitement from their new material comes from the anticipation of its release. Seldom are you surprised by the actual music once album seven or eight comes around.

That has been my relationship with Jason Mraz in recent years. I loved the tunes because they fell in line with what I expected, but they were hardly noteworthy apart from my own appreciation.

But when I heard “Work in Progress,” I could barely contain my elation. It’s the logical summation of a career (hypothetically speaking) and ear candy for a fan of any Jason Mraz era.

Mraz’s approach here is something you’d find more commonly in rap songs: looking back on a life in music in meta-style fan-service. (I can’t think of a ton of songs off the dome to which I can compare this, but I know guys such as Jay-Z and Eminem have dabbled in the same style.)

What’s even more impressive is that this is vintage skit-skatting Mr. A-Z mixed with his late-career big-band arrangements – the best of both worlds. On top of that, he weaved in 25 of his own songs titles, one album title and a classic hook reference into the lyrics. That is skill.

Here’s a line:

With the right kind of phrase and a star like no other
I’ll do anything it takes to keep singing for my supper
Singing about love because it needs to be discovered
Singing “I’m Yours” no matter how much it’s been covered

That’s the stuff.

This song is so much fun to unpack, even more so if you’ve been a longtime fan. Mraz references oldies such as “0% Interest” and “Sleeping to Dream” while catcalling the hits you know as “The Remedy,” “Lucky” and “I Won’t Give Up.”

And he stitches this wordplay resurgence with an irrefutable finesse, as if he’s mastered both the craft and the enjoyment of performing said craft. Put simply, this is as good a song as Jason Mraz could have made at this point in his career.

“A Work in Progress” this may be, but it’s hard to believe there’s a masterpiece beyond it.

Random Notes

  • Jason Mraz started playing a batch of new songs live last year but recently made “Work in Progress” official on YouTube. Naturally, that was my cue.
  • I couldn’t find the lyrics online, so I transcribed them all myself before writing this. How’s that for dedication? I could use the Genius points.

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