John Mayer's sixth studio album, Paradise Valley, was released yesterday (20th Aug). What's the verdict?
John Mayer's new album, Paradise Valley, dropped yesterday (20th Aug) The new record, the follow-up to 2012's Born and Raised, features collaborations with R&B singer Frank Ocean and Mayer's on/off girlfriend, Katy Perry.
The 35-year-old is currently in the midst of his first tour in three years after having to have a granuloma (inflammatory condition) removed from his vocal cords that delayed his fifth album. Writing on his Tumblr at the time, Mayer told his fans: "Though there will be a day when all of this will be behind me, it will sideline me for a longer period of time than I care to have you count down."
The country/folk singer appeared on Monday night's Late Night with David Letterman show where he performed 'Wildfire' from his new album wearing his trademark headscarf and a denim jacket with a peace sign on it. Speaking before the release of his previous effort, "Every new record I start, a new aesthetic comes in," he says. "I can't help it." It's true to a certain extent on Paradise Valley which aesthetically is incredibly wholesome - a facet that seems more hammed up here than on previous work. Even the cover art, showing him standing in a wild landscape, wearing a blanket, with a sleek dog by his side makes you think he's getting ready to toast something on a campfire and keep a sharp eye out for rattlers.
What hasn't been modified, however, is the basic sound of his music. Having experimented with blues, hip hop and variations on the acoustic genre, it's still the same formula of country and folk influences with crafted song lyrics that seem like Mayer knows you personally that defines the Connecticut-born songwriter's sound. 'Dear Marie' speaks of a lover, long ago and far away who fell for Mayer when they were 15. 'Paper Dolls', although having sparked suspicion that it was written about Taylor Swift with its "22" reference, could essentially be written about any girl who has been hurt.
The Boston Globe describes Paradise Valley as a "breezy journey" that "leads to a dead end," perhaps referencing the sense that we don't seem to know John any better by the end of the album; just the scores of women he's dated. Rolling Stone, however, notes that the use of minimal instruments apart from guitar and the focus on his distinctive voice "work to his advantage, allowing both his talent and his charm to shine." The New York Daily News compliments Mayer on a more accomplished piece of work than his previous efforts: "The melodies have more ease, the lyrics more awareness and the mood more coherence."
The Atlantic picks out Katy Perry duet 'Who You Love' as the album's highlight, praising the "the excellent Katy Perry [who] sings in her real voice, without any "California Girls" synthetics." Publically, their relationship is all over the place but they find unity on the slow and beautiful track. However, The Guardian feels that Frank Ocean's appearance on 'Wildfire' "is easily the most striking 85 seconds on the record."
One dollar from each ticket sold on Mayer's current tour will go to military veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
To be appreciated, the album needs to be listened from an open point of view, discounting Mayer's many fellow celeb dalliances, misplaced comments in that Playboy interview and well-documented arrogance. We'll take John Mayer, the singer; not John Mayer the media nightmare.