26 Aug 2009 9:00 am   //   Filed under: Music, No right to be good, Travel

How I learned to stop worrying and love Jason Mraz

August 12, Rio de Janeiro, on a vacation I felt I had earned.

A banged-up Volkswagen sedan picked me up at the hostel. As I climbed in the back, the driver apologized in part-English, part-Portuguese for the busted rear window, which was stuck open. We turned onto the road that parallels the beach. The air that blew through the car was warm and smelled like the sea.

beachroad

We followed the coast and passed through tunnels cut into seaside cliffs. I was on my way to go hang gliding for the first time. This is a touristy thing to do, but the gliding conditions were good, and I felt excited.

The car had a cheap stereo with a detachable face — the kind people buy when their factory radio gets stolen — tuned to an FM station playing American pop music. A song came with a ukulele and a twangy guitar, then a mellow voice be-bopping across some inane lyrics. Well-a you done done me and you bet I felt it… I knew this song, but not what it’s called or who sings it. John Mayer? Jack Johnson?

Later, I learned it’s called “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. It’s a generic, mass-produced summer pop song. The Bud Light Lime of music. This is not the kind of music I usually enjoy. It’s boring! It does not rock! But in a slightly scary place, in a slightly scary car, about to do a slightly scary thing, a boring American pop song was called for.

Hang gliding was a kick. Vacation is a free pass to enjoy the tacky. Out of New York, away from my job, not being observed, I felt relieved of the burden of good taste. And so Mr. Mraz was a welcome sound. I’ll always feel good when I hear that song.