I could sit hear and talk about his personal life, how it seems like he has become a very prominent figure on sites like TMZ or any show that shames celebrities. I could dig into his dating life, and how he has handled and talked about all of his exes. I could talk about comments he made years ago in Rolling Stones or Playboy articles that made people incredibly angry with him. But that doesn’t talk about his music, does it?
In fact, his music happens to be the most consistent and praised thing about him. Since he first debuted in 2001, his four studio albums has garnered him multiple Best Of listings and seven Grammys out of his eighteen nominations. Some of his singles, including “Daughters,” “Say,” and “Your Body Is A Wonderland” still get played on the radio and lots of special events on a daily basis. And his albums have always evolved and changed; starting as an alternative pop artist, then moving more to an adult contemporary kind of sound.
On his last album, Battle Studies, he took his contemporary sound and mixed in some country aspects – making his most ambitious album yet. Now, John is taking a folksy approach to Born And Raised, his fifth studio effort. And for some reason, I’m split.
There are plenty of good songs on Born And Raised that do deserve multiple listenings. “Queen Of California” is a really good intro, piecing together a great transfer track between this and his last album. It’s one of the only moments on this album that show’s how soulful Mayer can be without giving up what he is going for conceptually. The first single “Shadow Days” is a plea for forgiveness, as he coos about being young, dumb, and ready to make the change and become more responsible. “Something Like Olivia” is a down south stomp about putting a girl on a pedestal, and trying to find someone just like her. “If I Ever Get Around To Living” is a really gentle ballad that makes due with soft subtleties around every note.
The reason I’m split on Born and Raised is the continuity throughout; its just too much of the same. As you dive deeper into the album, the repetition of tempos and textures creates a bore of a listening experience. The tracks individually holds an incredibly amount of water, but put together on a fifty minute album makes shows how many leaks it really has. “Love Is A Verb,” “The Age Of Worry,” and “Speak For Me” all fall flat, whether it be the lyrics (“Love ain’t a thing/Love is a verb), or it sounding exactly like something else, those are just some that just didn’t sit well. You can make parallels between a lot of the songs here to one another, as nothing here (besides the rather chilling lyrics and feel to “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”) sounds unique. Not for John Mayer, or the genre he is trying to wedge himself in and make more mainstream.
Born And Raised isn’t Mayer’s best album, nor is it the worst. However, it can be argued that, in fact it is the worst one yet. There is a lot here that can appeal to all his fans, as his song structures and lyrics haven’t changed a whole lot. His sound, however, is what will either turn fans on or off. Born And Raised is no Continuum, and it’s not trying to be. If a Continuum 2 is what you are looking for, then this album is obviously not for you. But if you want something different from John that is still enjoyable for a couple of listens, then go ahead and pick up this album. For myself, there are some songs here that I truly enjoyed, but nothing else I think I might return to later this year.
Final Grade: B-
Go Download: “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”