I Won't Give Up

When we think of the kind of pop stars that thrive on periodic self-reinvention, we generally think of women. Madonna, of course, is the mother superior reinventer, but it’s basically a fact of life for even a minor female pop star that you don’t wear the same look twice and personae should be changed as often as underwear. You know – to stay fresh and stuff.

We don’t think this way about the guys though, do we? And maybe it’s just because in the last 30 years or so, there have been so few male solo artists who have sustained careers in the pop spotlight past their first or second hit that they either don’t stick around long enough to reinvent themselves – that or their reinventions go completely unnoticed. Let this be a warning, Jason Derulo! This is why “I Won’t Give Up”, the new single by Jason Mraz is so surprising.

It’s not the music so much (although there’s that too): it’s the look. I don’t know if it’s more 1971 hippie or 1991 grunge, but Mraz has made a clean break with the my-life-is-a-sunny-beach, dorky-straw-fedora thing that made him a star. Check out the new video, which got a much-hyped premiere on the E! Network on Thursday:

“I Won’t Give Up” sounds to me a lot like late 70s Poco (I mean that in a really good way), only with a bridge that sounds somewhat plagiarized from the Starland Vocal Band (regretfully, also meant in a really good way). I kinda like this song. It’s not the instant charmer that “I’m Yours” was, nor do I think that it will have that song’s legs (has “I’m Yours” ever really dropped out of heavy rotation on Top 40 radio?).

On the other hand, it’s also missing all the things that made me hate to love “I’m Yours” – the cheesy, white-boy-scatting vocals chief among them. On the other hand (is that three now?), this video feels awfully emotionally manipulative (the electrical poles as crosses in the background – sweet touch there) and it makes me like the song less. I’m not looking forward to hearing this one played behind every inspirational Olympics montage, or American Idol introductory video, or PETA commercial for the next two years.