John Mayer – Battle Studies
Before I even start this review I need to point out that this is about John Mayer as a musician. To me that’s the guy he’s always been. I don’t care about his interviews in Playboy, his manic lovelife or his portrayal in the media. I care about his music. So that is what I shall write about.
“Who says I can’t get stoned?” Those are the words that you become immersed into repeating after listening to Mayer’s latest single Who Says. The ‘stoner’ song which leads you to answer “I’m pretty sure the law does”, has lead to the media questioning his desire to be controversial. His reply? That if he’d have wanted to be controversial, there’s so much more he could have said. That’s very true, but going around declaring your use of recreational drugs is hardly the most PC route you could go down.
Moving on from the drugged up first single, Battle Studies is a standard John Mayer album. Opening with the relationship reminiscent Heartbreak Warfare, it’s clear that Mayer has chosen to stick to what he knows best with this release. He knows what his audience likes and has opted not to push any boundaries musically, aside from the aforementioned. This could leave some fans left a little disappointed with the lack of a new sound, but for others, myself included, he’s struck gold with what he knows best. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not immediately one stand out track. There’s no Belief as there was in Continuum. Nor will you hear the thought-provoking chorus of Daughters. However the songs that you are greeted with, are all pleasant enough to make this record another hit.
On it’s release day, Battle Studies was a trending topic on Twitter. Whilst this might not be something that all artists aspire to, Mayer’s fondness of the service (@johncmayer) probably resulted in him being rather happy with this fact. In fact, Half of My Heart sees Mayer join forces with his fellow tweeter Taylor Swift providing some sweet vocals. Lyrically, the song talks of the complexity of a character who appears to have many conflicting emotions that don’t sound too far away from the life story of Mayer.
Guitarist primarily, singer second. This is something that can be said of Mayer – particularly at live performances. And he does not disappoint with his riffs; particularly on his version of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads and on the closing track Friends, Lovers Or Nothing. One riff that did sound rather familiar was that of Edge Of Desire, which sounded incredibly similar to one found in Come Back To Bed from years past. I’m no expert on guitars or the sounds that they produce, but as someone who’s appreciated a lot of Mayer’s work over the years, it did seem to me that they carried a similar tune at certain stages.
Whilst he still doesn’t appear to be mentioning his on/off relationship that he shared with Jennifer Anniston last year, several tracks speak of failed loves. In fact, the over-exaggerated metaphor found in Heartbreak Warfare “Clouds of sulphur in the air/bombs are falling everywhere/it’s heartbreak warfare” suggest that he might put more feelings into his relationships than the media makes out. Although the over dramatic war references perhaps aren’t quite apt for a what is ultimately a break up song.
Do You Know Me? poses the question of whether anyone does really know Mayer beneath his portrayed persona in the tabloids. Ultimately no, we don’t. However I know enough to say that you could have probably made a slightly better album. Enough said.