John Mayer - Born and Raised
The mere idea of John Mayer doing a country based album provokes gag reflexes. Alas, for old times sake, the acclaimed singer-songwriter owns enough fuel in his name to allow him for another go around.
After a tremendously banal 4th album, “Battle Studies”, an inescapably gossip mongering monster and a corrosive superstar ego shadowing Mayer’s tail, his time bomb of a career was inevitably destined for a blue screen crash. The results marks with Mayer exiling himself to middle-of-nowhere, Montana, hidden away from all the ‘oh so terrible’ aspects of modern life and rekindling with his long lost self. Cue the sympathy soundboard. From this self-induced separation were the seeds planted of an expected new album; an album that’ll be advertised as “intimate”, “raw” and “unprecedented”, as if these labels are expected to bewilder listeners into hopping on the hype train.
The fact of the matter is, any mainstream artist that isn’t walking propaganda or made more than two albums succumbs to the self-indulgent album; better known as the album “an artist makes for themselves”. And usually they suck. Sometimes it’s a last resort defense to veiling a poor album, or sometimes, it’s the truth. More often than so, these are the blemishes in a successful musician discography: they’re either shrugged off or the last nail in the coffin.
Here’s the thing with John Mayer. In the past eleven years since his debut “Room for Squares”, Mayer indulges in any non-offensive, radio-friendly genre and uses advanced musicianship technique as a cover. He takes major risks by relying strictly on music theory, letting his recklessly youthful personality run amok his music. In a sense, Mayer was mainstream rock’s Will Hunting throughout the ’00s.
Flash-forward to today on his fifth LP: “Born and Raised”, the ultimate foil to Mayer’s blueprint. Until now, Mayer got away with “being clever” with his lyrical substance, but now that overeager edge ended up consuming his personal image, he’s given up on his core appeal. Not to mention, in the process of Mayer cutting back and putting an album out there “for himself”, he let go of his nimble grip on music composition, sacrificing creativity with room for ingenuous, and unfortunately, tasteless, hopelessly insipid personal musings.
It’s not even the added country-inspired instrumentation, which work in benefit for the album, but the dreadfully constructed lyricism. Mayer took after rapper Kanye West’s ambitious lyrical approach on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” where the context of his personal life took center stage, offering theatrically massive emotional results. Unfortunately, Mayer bites the dust by spawning nearly every song-writing weakness in the book, only proving how Kanye’s challenging lyrical risks succeeded for his work.
“Born and Raised” is an album that just cut Mayer’s tightrope in half. Not only does it place Mayer at his most vulnerable, creative-less and indulgent on his career map, but places him higher on people mainstream America wants to forget. It’s the nature of the game Mayer plays and making such a move even eliminates room for a second redemption. (4/10)
Follow us! Entertainment review blog: That’s My Dad