Release Date: Aug 20, 2013
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Blues-Rock
So, as it turns out, John Mayer wasn’t just having a bit of fun. Born & Raised, the singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album, was in some ways a natural progression following his increasing love affair with the blues, particularly with records like the masterful Continuum and to a lesser extent Battle Studies. At the same time, it was impressive just how much he committed to the bit; from the country flourishes of “Shadow Days” and “Queen of California” to the fact that he moved to Montana, his newfound love for the rustic was surprising when Born & Raised dropped more than a year ago.
John Mayer's 2013 album, the Americana-tinged Paradise Valley, is an introspective if somewhat more upbeat affair than his similarly country-inflected 2012 release, Born and Raised. With that album, Mayer was coming off a rough career patch that found him issuing a mea culpa for an infamously loose-lipped 2010 Rolling Stone interview. Making matters worse, in 2011 the singer/songwriter announced he would be going on extended hiatus from performing while he received treatment for granulomas found near his vocal cords.
John Mayer has made a career of growing up (or failing to grow up) in public, and Paradise Valley, his sixth studio album, continues that autobiographical journey. As its title (a reference to Mayer's Montana retreat) indicates, this chapter finds him in a relaxed, joyful frame of mind. And why not? After two throat surgeries, his voice is fully restored, and his personal life has ceased to be a tabloid fixture.
"Own worst enemy" might have been coined for John Mayer, who's sold 20m albums and won multiple Grammys, but has turned himself into tabloid catnip by giving indiscreet interviews about his high-profile girlfriends. Even his current flame gets the innuendo treatment in the album credits, which say: "Thank you in so many ways, Katy Perry." This hasn't stopped Perry from dueting with Mayer on Who You Love, a country-pop amble that's entirely self-serving. She is a drowsy, rootsy presence, claiming: "Some have said his heart's too hard to hold/ You should see him when he shines", while Mayer murmurs his agreement.
The problem with John Mayer is that he forces you to look at his music through the prism of his very public and often cringe worthy personal life. Perhaps that’s true with other high profile musicians but seldom has an introspective, roots based singer/songwriter clearly motivated by country, folk, soul and blues made himself look so contradictory by dating glitzy, somewhat vapid female pop stars. His habit of seemingly courting tabloid trash stories with quotes that don’t do his shy, innocent man-child appearance any favors is another notch in a quickly accumulating debit column.
Close your eyes. Erase your mind. Forget about Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and the various extracurricular activities that have hobbled singer-guitarist-romantic John Mayer’s reputation off the playing field. Breathe, and think about the guitar while inhaling fresh air and electrified guitar licks ….
When John Mayer made “Born and Raised,” his 2012 album, he was in full-on retreat mode. His loose lips had gotten him in trouble when discussing his love life and sexual proclivities. Before long he was chafing at the reality that he was becoming known more for his personal pursuits than his professional ones. John Mayer the musician had receded from public view.