Anyone who has passed advertisements for Mr. A-Z, Jason Mraz’s newest CD, knows what’s coming. With an album title that plays on his last name (Hint: Mraz = Mr. A-Z.) and a single like “Wordplay,” what else should a listener expect? Mraz warms up as he slips some wordplay in the first relaxing track, “Life is Wonderful”: “It takes a thought to make a word / And it takes some words to make an action / And it takes some work to make it work.”
From here, Mraz demonstrates self-awareness in the unpretentious “Wordplay” as he sings in reference to his 2002 hit single, “I got your remedy / For those who don’t remember me / Well, let me introduce you to my style / I try to keep a jumble in the lyrics, never mumble / When the music’s makin’ people tongue-tied.” With this kind of scat-talk-inspired singing, Mraz shows off his agile tongue’s ability to turn potentially blurry babbling into meaningful, mellifluous tunes. He’s silly, slyly sexual and self-deprecating in bouncy songs like “Geek in the Pink” and “Clockwatching” which playfully cover topics ranging from first impressions to time-crunch quickies.
Mraz shines in his more soulful songs, like “Mr. Curiosity,” a piano-backed piece that reflects vulnerability on his quest for love which includes his own glorious, rich operatic aria. “Plane” evokes the separation anxiety of flying away from a lover in a refreshingly serene way, in contrast to today’s hustle bustle. The latter parts of the album begin to drag until the powerful “Song for a Friend,” which features a jolting reprise by Mraz’s hometown high school choir that closes out the album.
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