Music

Jason Mraz: Mr. A-Z

Justin Cober-Lake

You will like this album if you find its title amusing.


Jason Mraz

Mr. A-Z

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2005-07-26
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Only four lines into his new album, Jason Mraz sings, "There is no end to what I'm saying." Only four lines into his new album, I believe him.

Certain albums demand that you respond solely to the music. Instrumental jazz tends to do this. Other discs draw you into the lyrics. Here we find the clumsy-but-heartfelt folkies. Yet another group requires you appreciate the artist's personality, or the presentation of their character. Mr. A-Z presents Jason Mraz (or a believable facsimile thereof), and how you respond determines how much you can enjoy the album.

Take this opening series of "Life Is Wonderful" (which does its best to convince me of the opposite):

It takes a crane to build a crane
It takes to floors to make a story
It takes an egg to make a hen, it takes a hen to make an egg

Not since my nightmare about the mythical Alanis Zeppelin have there been such words pretending to have meaning while being devoid of any value save for use as sig files on mommy blogs. Then Mraz says his speech is unending and I hit the skip button. Well, I don't, actually, but it would have been better if I had.

Which brings us to "Wordplay", which I can't convince myself is ironic, or clever, unless it's self-congratulatory-clever, which most clever is (like this sentence -- see how it feels?). Ostensibly, Mraz sings a paeon to his own rhetorical dexterity, delivering his lines rappishly but ridiculously. Rarely have I been so irritated by a song performed by artists without a "Ying" or a "Yang" present. "The Mr. A to Z they say / Is all about the worldplay". They do? Who? "The sophomore slump is an uphill battle / But someone said that ain't my scene". Now I know who the "someone" is this time -- it's himself! And what he means by "sophomore slump" is when one fails to pick up sophomore girls in coffeeshops, so moving on to first-years.

Actually, I feel a little bad that Mraz's songs are bringing out this catty side of me. I shouldn't be scaring people away, because his music's so harmless. I'll be shocked if something of this album -- take your pick of tracks -- doesn't enter standard rotation on at least half of the Starbucks in the area. Maybe they'll even sign him to an exclusive remixer deal. So, yeah, that's what it sounds like -- a guy with a gentle guitar and then a band (he somehow gets ?uestlove to show up for a track) and he does that whole sound.

Despite my disdain for this album, I'll end on a well-earned positive note. Mraz's "Please Don't Tell Her" suggests that Mraz could turn his clevercentric bent to good use. On this track the singer glides in and out of the front he puts on after a breakup. Initially vindictive, then vulnerable, then in track-covering mode, Mraz takes us through the mentality of a guy too concerned with being tough to hurt, but too hurt to maintain the hard facade. On this piece, Mraz uses his cleverness not to display his alleged prowess with words, but to smartly draw a portrait that works on our intellect without forsaking the emotional tint.

Mraz apparently has some skill, and maybe if he gives up on showing that skill off, his next record could be a respectable one.

3
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.