Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

With his trademark wit intact, singer/songwriter Jason Mraz battles the sophomore slump head-on with his ambitious second effort, "Mr. A-Z." The 12-song collection (released July 26) showcases an artist who is "more comfortable, more confident. Less precious about things," he says.

From the simple sweetness of potential campfire sing-along "Life Is Wonderful" to the dizzying hip-hop funk of first single "Wordplay," the Atlantic album is indeed a bolder forum than his 2002 debut, "Waiting for My Rocket to Come." That album thrust Mraz from the coffeehouse circuit into the top 40 spotlight with the standout "Remedy."

The song, which Mraz wrote with the Matrix, reached No. 4 and No. 7 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 lists, respectively. The album has sold 930,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"I was nervous before that [signing] was a sellout move," says the Virginia-born artist, who played New York and Los Angeles haunts before scoring his first major-label deal. "You have a lot of people in the coffee shop community who give up on you. This time around I'm more relaxed and have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude."

In fact, with lyrics like "I got your 'remedy' for those who don't remember me" and "for the people who write me off like I'm a one-hit wonder/Gotta find another way to keep from going under," Mraz's cheeky "Wordplay" is heading critics off at the pass.

The song is "kind of a parody on what a first single should be," he says, "and was written to kind of alleviate the pressures I was putting on myself."

After writing and arranging "Mr. A-Z" during a six-month period, Mraz brought a self-produced version to producer Steve Lillywhite, who helped the singer complete the project over the next six months.

In advance of the album's release, Mraz returned to the road, opening for Alanis Morissette on her Jagged Little Pill Acoustic tour. At the shows fans were able to pre-order "Mr. A-Z," ensuring delivery on the album's release date. Included in the deal was a three-song EP with the single and two non-album cuts.

Mraz, who also headlined 30 college campuses recently, will headline a North American tour starting Sept. 20. The jaunt will run through the first week of December. He will also play private gigs as part of the Target Red Room series of invitation-only events.

He also contributed three non-album songs to the "XM Hear Music Series" compilation distributed in 4,500 Starbucks locations nationwide and will appear in a fall TV and print campaign for clothing retailer the Gap.





Excerpted and expanded from the July 23, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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