Following the cancellation of his 2012 tour due to vocal granulomas and throat surgery, John Mayer returned to the music scene with the release of his latest album, “Paradise Valley,” on Aug. 20.
While “Paradise Valley” has the same smooth vocals and soft rock melodies as Mayer’s past albums, there is an unplugged, honest aspect to the record that has not been changed from his early days.
“Paper Doll,” the first single on the album, has not-so-subtle lyrics reflecting on an unsuccessful past relationship. Mayer refers to the woman in the song as being “like 22 girls in one,” causing speculation that the track is about his ex Taylor Swift, who has her own song titled “22.” The upfront nature of Mayer’s lyrics continues with “Dear Marie,” a song about a girl he loved at 15 and with whom he has since lost touch.
Mayer’s sound is usually easily recognized, but “You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down” has strong country influences that alter the melodies. While the change is not a bad thing, if listeners hear the song out of context, there is a chance they will not recognize it as Mayer.
The most musically respectable song is the “Wildfire” reprise, which features the soulful R&B crooning of Frank Ocean. The old-school feel and attractive beat add a catchiness needed for any successful album. There is no denying the head-bobbing, foot-tapping aspects of the track, making it a fan favorite.
Ocean was not the only guest star on “Paradise Valley,” however. Mayer teamed up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Katy Perry for “Who You Love,” an overwhelmingly sweet track about falling in love when you least expect it. Although Mayer and Perry do not comment much about their personal lives in the media, the song’s honest lyrics do most of the talking for them.
“I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea)” divulges how lost Mayer once felt while he was at the height of his career. The piano ballad tugs at heartstrings but has a redemptive, uplifting quality that gives listeners a sense of much-needed hope.
Mayer has faced criticism for conforming to musical stereotypes, but “Paradise Valley” pays homage to the soulful roots with which fans first fell in love.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Alexandra D’Aluisio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.