Since John Mayer’s debut, he as assumed a number of different roles; a comedian, a gifted songwriter, a talented singer, a maestro guitar player, and a tabloid darling with his T.M.I interviews about his love life. After his critically acclaimed album Continuum, Mayer had a lot to live up to with his follow up. Unfortunately, Battle Studies didn’t exceed many of the fans expectations (including my own). His fifth album, Born and Raised, is a return to the John Mayer fans know and love.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about an artist exploring new sounds and experimenting, but the songs on Battle Studies were so trite that even an ego-maniac like Mayer could not make them work. The one redeeming track was a duet with Taylor Swift called “Half of my Heart.” With Born and Raised, John Mayer channeled the country-folk sound that made “Half of my Heart” so great, then added a bit of his signature blues sound to make it even better.
The first single, “Shadow Days,” gets back to the roots John Mayer came up on; heavy on the guitar with his soft raspy voice lamenting over it. The lyrics of the song make it sound like an epiphany he had (perhaps over his tabloid days?). This is definitely one of the stronger tracks on the album.
A favorite of mine starts with a crescendo of a trumpet leading into the song, from there, the song takes another turn. “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” goes from a trumpet to a simple little diddy with drums, vocals and guitars (and a little bit of piano later on). I really enjoy the stripped-down feeling to the song. Songs don’t always have to be auto-tuned and overproduced to be brilliant.
Of course, no John Mayer album is complete without a love song to keep his female fans in heat… err… to keep them swooning. “Love is a verb” does not disappoint. Garnering the same amount of steam as “Come Back to Bed” or “Your Body is a Wonderland,” this slow-dance anthem will sweep you off your feet. “When you show me love, I don’t need your words. Love ain’t a thing, love is a verb.” What the verb is exactly, Mayer doesn’t really give that answer. However, given his record with seductive love songs, one can only imagine what that verb is exactly.
The title track, “Born and Raised”, is a classic folk-rock fan’s dream with sounds that resemble the likes of America, The Allman Brothers, and Crosby-Stills and Nash. This shouldn’t be shocking to many, seeing as David Crosby and Graham Nash added harmonies to this proclamation of self-awareness.
As a long time John Mayer fan, I was happy to see him return to a sound that is more his speed. While he is still experimenting with new elements of his music, this album feels more organic than his last. Here’s to hoping John Mayer stays devoted to the music and out of the tabloids from here on out.