Album Reviews

Jason Mraz – Mr A-Z

(Atlantic) UK release date: 6 February 2006

Jason Mraz is the kind of acoustic guitar playing singer songwriter that makes you wonder whether they’ve ever heard of ‘cheese’ on the other side of the Atlantic. If you thought Daniel Powter‘s Bad Day was a bit heavy on the cheddar, just wait until you get a whiff of this one.

Opening with a track called Life Is Wonderful, Mraz progresses through twelve eclectic and varied tracks of either the best pop you’ve ever heard or the most offensive sounds ever to pass through your ears.

After debut album Waiting For My Rocket To Come, the obvious expectation would be for a more mature album – it was a playful delight (and to be fair, a marginally better album all things considered, than this one), but you couldn’t help but feel Curbside Prophet is the kind of anthem most kids would stop considering ‘cool’ at the age of about 12. But as soon as you hear the title of his second LP, it’d be difficult to expect anything other than another sackload of silliness.

But it’s that quirky and cute characterisation that makes Mr A-Z so downright loveable. Through the self-referential lyrics of Worplay (“is everybody ready for the single? Cos it goes…”) to the raptastic nonsense of Geek In The Pink; the funky swing duet with Rachael Yamagata called Did You Get My Message to the latino vibe of O Lover and the cutesy guitar pop of Clockwatching (co-written by Ainslie Henderson, the-other-Scottish-one-from-Fame-Academy, it’s the guiltiest pleasure this side of Girls Aloud.

In the same way that Absolutely Zero did on album number one, closing track Song For A Friend is Jason Mraz’s proof that he could do the smart, serious songwriter thing if he wanted. It’s an eight minute prog-jazz beast with a big glorious choir section at the end, but it’s plain from the rest of the album that Mraz would far rather have his fans smiling than scratching their chins.

If you’ve always thought Bright Eyes took himself a bit too seriously, here is his polar opposite. It’s shallow but sweet, light-hearted pop indulgence, like the love child of Elton John and Jamiroquai auditioning for Simon Cowell.

This is an album that, heard too often, would give you a serious headache – but then too much of a good thing usually does. He’s the Mary Poppins of singer songwriters, and if you give him a chance he’ll make it feel like every day is a warm summers day in Southern California (perhaps it’s no coincidence that he kicked off his music career in the sunshine state). This crazy cat will be stealing hearts all over the UK as soon as some decent exposure gives him the chance (James Blunt support slot, anyone?), and this album may well be the surprise smash of the year.

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More on Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz – We Sing We Dance We Steal Things
Jason Mraz – Mr A-Z
Interview: Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz – Waiting For My Rocket To Come