At his worst, Mraz is still smarter than Jewel and more human-sounding than Dave Matthews. At his best, he's a young Rufus Wainwright or late-period Elvis Costello for freshman sorority pledges, which is to say that this former theater student has a real knack for complex, idiosyncratic balladry. "If the plane goes down/Damn," he croons on "Plane," a typical combination of huggable self-deprecation and showmanship that hinges on alliteration and phrasing -- all the old-school elements of pop craft generally eschewed in the American Idol era. This time, go in peace, pink-cheeked geek.
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