It's no secret that John Mayer is a 21st Century Fox, wining and dining women all through the tabloid headlines, so it's about time he delivered an album that traded upon his loverman persona -- and Battle Studies is that record in spades. Retaining more than a modicum of the slick soul-blues undertones of Continuum, Mayer fashions a modern groove album, a record that maintains a smooth seductive vibe so thoroughly it spills into a weird one-man band cover of "Crossroads," turning Clapton's contained Cream masterwork into something about vibe, not virtuosity. Mayer remains a disciple of Slowhand, but he shows an unusual interest in the big AOR stylings of Journeyman, along with Stevie Ray Vaughan's In Step, creating a coolly clean blend of synths and Strats, one that's as much about texture as it is song -- something perfectly appropriate for a make-out album like this.
The John Mayer mirror has, as it were, two faces: the faultlessly earnest, furrow-browed blues-pop crooner of record, and the starlet-?devouring, Twitter-baiting jokester who would, one imagines, love nothing more than to give guys like Earnest John a big fat wedgie. In a way, it’s too bad that he doesn’t. Battle Studies is, for the most part, status quo Mayeromics — an expertly calibrated study in soft-pedal confessions, searching lyricism, and mildly groovy guitar licks.
Mayer’s eclectic musicianship almost makes up for pensive poetry Battle Studies marks the fourth release for John Mayer, who enters an arena of high-riding hopes after the soul-spilling Contiuum that graduated him to the lofty ranks of someone who could shred a six-string alongside B.B. King or Eric Clapton. Mayer’s albums were maturing one after the other, combining electric blues and clever songwriting, but he takes a few steps back with the lovelorn Battle Studies, a superficial meditation on the jagged down-slope of a relationship—the romantic blitzkrieg that recalls, among other genres, his early acoustic sound on Room for Squares.
As a self-professed John Mayer fan who’s followed the man’s career throughout the many swerving, twisting paths it’s taken, I’ve come to place quite a bit of emotional investment in Battle Studies, his long-anticipated follow-up to his creative break-through, Continuum. On too many an occasion have I found myself in the position of defending John Mayer’s artistic credibility amongst a pit of rabid anti-Mayer acolytes who cannot see past their burning hatred for the admitted fluff of “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and its ilk. True, Mayer got his start—as have many talented, flourishing musicians—crafting light-weight pop, but it only proved to be a building block, a stepping stone, before slowly bridging his way into more adventurous territory.
The John Mayer we know from pop culture is fascinating and entertaining. He's done stand-up, written for Esquire and is a Twitter king. But his personality - the one that apparently makes some women melty inside - shows through better in his 140-character tweets than in his music. [rssbreak] His latest mundane disc lacks edge despite sometimes aiming for U2 (War Of My Life).
His name might not register much over here, but John Mayer is a real, live big deal in the States. This Grammy-winning, Jennifer Aniston-dating, sneaker-designing (no, really) AOR pin-up has sold 13m fearlessly commercial albums, veering stylistically between glossy modern blues and, well, glossy modern pop; here his intent is to channel the sunny, clear (and resurgently fashionable) radio-friendly sounds of Fleetwood Mac or Tom Petty. But Battle Studies's immaculate musical sheen is so pathologically tasteful, so desperately non-threatening, that it ends up sounding more like a Ronan Keating solo album.
I’m not going to sit here and say I always knew John Mayer was a great blues guitarist. But at the very least, once I discovered this fact, I kept waiting for the day his blazing skills would transfer over into an incendiary, old-school blues studio album. First there was the live album, Try!, released in 2005. With searing covers of Jimi Hendrix and Ray Charles and lick-heavy reinterpretations of Mayer originals, it looked like the Bridgeport-based media magnet was finally ready to unleash his Slowhand.