nice review. agreed about Frank, but I really like the Katy Perry feature. too many people give her crap for her radio success, but she gives great harmony here.
I think Perry actually sounds pretty damn good. But I don't really like the song very much period, so I guess that's my problem with it. Like I said, I don't begrudge its placement here, it's just never going to be a favorite of mine.
agreed, her bit at the end is my favourite part of the song. That song's just a weak track imo.
as for the record, it's been growing on me a lot and I love the majority of it but I do think "Who You Love", the Frank Ocean track and the really weak "Call Me the Breeze" keep the record from being as solid as any of his last three. Still a great listen though.
Our opinions on this album are very much aligned, haha. It's grown on me a ton, but those three tracks keep it from being a top 5 EOTY inclusion like his last few records have been.
As a bit of a Mayerniac (the best I could do) I'm pretty blind as an objective critic of his work. I will say that this doesn't quite reach the (incredible) heights of Born & Raised, but still tickles most of the same parts of me that B&R did.
Waiting On The Day brings back memories of the first time I heard Born & Raised - the song - and is an early leader on the record for me.
My favourite thing about Mayer is that I could listen to 3x5, Walt Grace..., then onto Gravity through to Paper Doll and it all makes me feel something - no matter if that feeling's early 20s heartbreak or mid 30s self discovery. That's music, right?
"Waiting on the Day" is actually one of the more middle-range tracks for me. I like it a lot, but I think he does more interesting things here.
Definitely agree with you on the last statement though. It doesn't matter what stage of his career I'm listening to, it all hits me hard for different reasons. I've sort of grown up as his music has matured, so I guess that makes sense.
Room for Squares was absolutely solid, and it has so much lasting value. I still hear multiple songs from that album on the radio today. Continuum was pretty great too, but I haven't checked anything out since. I keep meaning to, but never get around to it.
Very well-written review though, Craig. To someone who hasn't heard this or his previous album, your critique of some kind of identity crisis, between Mayer's desire to be isolated and return to roots and working with current artists, does sound kind of strange.
Room for Squares is a really great pop singer/songwriter album. I feel like people always write it off, because it's almost by default weaker than his later work, but there are still a lot of great songs on there.
And thanks. I hope you will check this album. Despite the slight identity crisis, there is a lot to love about this album.
Awesome review, no doubt. Though, VERY small nitpick alert, it sort of seems like you're insinuating here...
"trying to wring a radio hit or some current relevance from proceedings." "I hope it’s his parting gift to the radio world. Mayer is great at playing the pop game, but he’s so much more interesting when he’s following less commercial aspirations."
...that he might be adapting part of the album to be more accessible (better wording escapes me, I don't mean to say you're accusing him of sacrificing anything.) This is far more of an observation than a complain, for the record. Maybe it's a bit of a crossroads there. (EDIT: Yeah, I miiiiight be reading too much into there, haha.)
I think there is a certain dichotomy between the mainstream stuff and the super old-fashioned country stuff. I don't think he actively sacrificed his artistic intentions to meet both sides of the coin, but I do think he's at a crossroads of sorts as an artist. He definitely wants to go down the more classic path, and that by default leads him away from his pop roots (as demonstrated by Born and Raised). I think that, with this album, he was either feeling label pressure to write a few big hits or wanting to get back to his previous levels of popularity.
In the past, he's always been able to balance his own ambitions and the desires of his radio fans really well. Heavier Things, Continuum, Battle Studies, they've all got songs that bridge the gap well, songs that do well on the radio ("Daughters," "Waiting," "Half of My Heart") and songs that probably would never make it on modern pop radio ("Come Back to Bed," "I Don't Trust Myself," "Assassin"). Born and Raised only really had the latter, and he didn't really know how to bring it back with this one, since the only kind of country that is really big in the mainstream right now is not the kind of music he would ever want to write. So he tried to balance it with guest spots and songs that aren't quite overtly rootsy as Born and Raised, while still keeping the bulk of the record in a very traditional territory.
This looks poised to be John's worst album since RFS after listening to it 15-ish times. But considering the four albums in between, that's easily misleading, especially as this album's no less than the 8.5/10 it got here.
Agreed with this. I'd give Continuum a 9.5, Born and Raised a 9, and the other two 8.5s.
Really enjoyed your review and I agree with most of it. "Who You Love" is one of my favorite tracks, but that's just me. Frank Ocean's "Wildfire" should've been cut and his cover of "Call Me The Breeze" should've been replaced with an original. I feel like making those changes would've put this album on par with Born and Raised, but it's still a fantastic album nonetheless.
I saw him live about two weeks ago and it was one of the best concerts I've been to. If you have the opportunity to watch him live, do it.
"Who You Love" I just think is a little bit duller than what Mayer is capable of. The lyrics on that song are some of my least favorite on the record. It sounds nice enough though.
"Call Me the Breeze" is also fine, but it's kind of boring, and I don't quite get why he likes including covers on his albums so much. I like them, but I'd prefer them as b-side (a la "I'm on Fire" from Battle Studies).
Hmmm I can definitely see your point, but I think his melodic and harmonic choices (especially favoring the 7ths and 9ths) are very reminiscent of the aforementioned albums, especially Battle Studies. I think it could play well with songs like "Half of my Heart."
I think "Who You Love" is either Heavier Things or Born and Raised. It's not bluesy or ambitious enough for Continuum.
For me, Where the Light Is > Heavier Things > Continuum > Room for Squares > Battle Studies > Paradise Valley.
It worries me that this is the kind of music JM actually wants to make. He isn't lowballing anyone. He has always wanted to do more within the constraints of a pop melody. Quite frankly, Battle Studies seems like Continuum in comparison to Paradise Valley.
This post confuses me. I don't see why you should be worried about the music he wants to make. I would be more worried if Mayer was still writing albums like Room for Squares or Heavier Things. Don't get me wrong, I love both of those albums, but I think one of the greatest things about Mayer is that he hasn't been afraid to change his sound. If you don't care much for his folk sound, that's a bummer, but I don't think you have to worry about this being the kind of thing he spends the rest of his career making. He's shown that he likes crossing genre lines, and once he's done with this trilogy, I'm sure we will get a new direction out of him again.
If you're open-minded and excited, you'll get lots of new and interesting records from an artist you've liked for a long time. If you're constantly looking for another Continuum or Heavier Things, then you're going to be disappointed, not because he'll never make a record that sounds like that again, but because you have personal ties to those songs that a return to form isn't going to be able to replicate. Case in point in this situation is Battle Studies, which you don't seem to care for. That album may not have been Continuum, but it was pretty close to Heavier Things, and look how that turned out for most of his listeners? I personally adore that album, but I can understand why people didn't love it: it's the closest thing in his catalog to a step back.
Personally I think it's got the same sort of arrangements as Belief, I Don't Trust Myself and to lesser degree Slow Dancing...
Similar arrangement maybe, but not the same kind of song. "Belief" is an intense slow-burner, "I Don't Trust Myself" is a throwback, and "Slow Dancing" is a bitter break-up anthem. "Who You Love" is a breezy, poppy love song, much closer to "Half of My Heart" or Your Body is a Wonderland" than to anything on Continuum. Most of those songs just had higher stakes.
I leave for Oregon on Saturday (driving from Wisconsin) and I can't wait to listen to this while driving through vast open spaces, mountains and other beautiful scenery while these songs (and B&R at least) play on.
Honestly, I like the chorus and instrumentals. The parts that kill it for me are the verses, just because the lyrics are eye-roll worthy. "And he takes a little time, but you should see him when he shines." Yeesh.
I love the ending of Dear Marie and "On the way home" is a solid song as well. I am not very fond of country music in general, but I would say JM pulls it off.
Great review and great album!
I'm hoping this album will get some people to check out more country music, actually. It's not all hick mainstream pop country bullshit. Half my EOTY list this year is going to be folk and alt-country, and I used to be one of the people who cringed at anything with a country music descriptor.
Not really. It's more or less fact that "you love who you love" or "his heart is hard to hold" are cliched lyrics. No other song on the album falls into such obvious traps, meaning "Who You Love" is definitively less accomplished than the rest of the record from a songwriting perspective. More power to you if you like it, but it's not at all surprising that a lot of people don't.
P.S. Craig, just wanted to drop this in here for you to stare at for a little while...from your 2012 Performances review...
"Mayer clearly felt the pain. Despite a vocal surgery looming (his second in less than a year), he couldn’t stay away from the music. Immediately following the release of Born & Raised, Mayer set a wildfire of rumors by commenting that he might just go ahead and begin work on the follow-up, and while the chances of him making good on those speculations and finishing an album by next summer seem doubtful now..."
I like to be pleasantly surprised rather than bitterly disappointed.
Finally got around to giving this a proper spin. He really can't make a bad album.
Another freaking amazing review, Craig.
Thanks man. Need to check out your William Beckett review.
And I'm fairly confident that Mayer will never make a bad album, haha. I've heard people call this, Battle Studies, and Room for Squares weak, but no way I'd consider giving any of them less than an 8.