Jason Mraz's ability to rattle off lyrics at a dizzying pace may be his most memorable talent, as he demonstrated on his 2002 debut, "Waiting for My Rocket to Come." His latest album, "Mr. A-Z," leverages the same gimmick with its first single, "Wordplay," a rapid-fire self-satire that would leave his tongue twisted in knots if it weren't so firmly entrenched in his cheek.
Indeed, Mraz's sense of humor carries "Wordplay," saving his solipsism ("I've been all around the world, I've been a new sensation") from swerving into arrogance. He is at his strongest when he wears his personality on his sleeve, from the whimsy of "Geek in the Pink" to the jubilation of "Life Is Wonderful." The bouncy "Did You Get My Message?" is signature Mraz: Contemplating where words go when a message is left on an answering machine, he jumps from flawless tenor melodies to R&B-ish spoken word to even a few lines of scat.
The album's punning title is no exaggeration. Mraz switches styles constantly, even within songs, as in the faux-operatic interlude at the end of the otherwise languid "Mr. Curiosity." Not every genre suits him, and "Mr. A-Z" is held back by clunkers like the blurry "Bella Luna" and the insubstantial soft-rock "Forecast." Aping genres as quickly as he spits out lyrics, Mraz often hits his moving target, but all that jumping around makes "Mr. A-Z" a bumpy, incoherent ride.
-Catherine P. Lewis