Mayer’s newest album leaves too many “Battle” scars
With his first three solo albums making the Top Ten charts, widely respected and revered singer-songwriter John Mayer claims to have taken a new, record-in-home approach on “Battle Studies,” that unfortunately often seems futile. Set to be released on Nov. 24, Mayer’s album veers away from his traditional, political and opinionated lyrics and into a much more personal and emotional realm. Band mates Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino join Mayer in a relatively lackluster musical compilation- one that demonstrates talent but certainly is not the Grammy winner’s best work.
The opening track, “Heartbreak Warfare” is effective in setting the theme of love’s woes for the entirety of the album. Its clarity is reminiscent to the scintillating style of U2’s “Joshua Tree” and Mayer’s pure vocals contain traces of Sting. The tune is catchy and bouncy but is in a conflict of interest with its depressing lyrics that ring out, “Push it in and twist the knife again, as I pretend I have no pain, pain, pain.”
Mayer continues sulking in “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” while unimpressively repeating the pitying title phrase over and over. Lacking energy and containing little more than good harmony and angst, it serves as the quintessential soundtrack for a rainy, post-break-up kind of day, begging a mainstream, “Why you wanna break my heart again?”
The album’s single, “Who Says” is a calming, folksy tune that expresses Mayer’s independence. As with much of the album, the notes are simplistic and attractive, but the message delivered is not in the mature style of his previous songs “Say” and “Daughters.” In the single, he expresses a need to demonstrate his assertiveness, almost in the manner of a rebellious teenager, when he shockingly asks “Who says I can’t get stoned?”
The light and appealing “Perfectly Lonely” echoes the clean, iconic vocals fans heard in his hit song “Waiting on the World.” It leaves you singing the chorus long after you have heard its polished sound. The song also encompasses the mainstream idea of love but it shines a bit of happiness onto the otherwise cheerless album.
After all of his romantic “warfare,” Mayer creates “Perfectly Lonely,” claiming his loneliness is “the way that I want it.” Sadly, the contentment is only short-lived as the song is followed by the dark and haunting “Assassin,” a track that dramatically parallels a relationship to the job of a hit man.
Mayer teamed up with best-selling singer, Taylor Swift in “Half of My Heart,” describing the way that their equally smooth voices combine as a “wild experience.” Propelled by a lively drumbeat, the song’s effortless guitar and bluesy harmonica make it a simply pretty sing-along tune.
The musicality of the album seems to lack a central flow. The drawn out listless tone of tracks like “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” is strangely interspersed with bright songs like “Perfectly Lonely.” Furthermore, his funky and energetic cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” though enjoyable, acts as an unexpected cold splash of water from the rest of his songs. Flow aside, credit should be given to Mayer’s talent on guitar as highlighted in the solos of “Heartbreak Warfare,” “Perfectly Lonely” and “Assassin.”
Overall, the album certainly is meant to emphasize the inner workings of John Mayer and despite lacking his usual originality, it does manage to preserve his musical capabilities. The album is not a complete failure by any means as it sends out the artist’s intended message of the woes of love and how they affect him. Though at times repetitive and cliché, John Mayer’s “Battle Studies” is a predictable but acceptable album that calls out, as he reveals to fans on his blog, “This is who I am.”
Angie Szani can be reached at email@example.com.