Blue Robot

Old Meets New: John Mayer Since Heavier Things

Posted by Brittany Barth on 09/26 at 04:12 PM

Mayer has produced eleven albums, both live and studio since he debuted back in 2000, proving to the world he was a star on the rise. He was identified as a singer with soul, who could play the guitar just as well (if not better IMO) than Eric Clapton.

His 2001 album Room for Squares includes some of his most famous singles such as “Why Georgia”, “No Such Thing”, and “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Perhaps this last single is one he’d like to forget, but I’ve fantasized about being the girl he serenades in that video many-a-time.

Whether or not he’s proud of these songs doesn’t matter, really. These were the singles that would rocket him to fame, and of course, leave his female fans (like me) swooning.

It was the album Heavier Things (an album of which he was perhaps more proud) that showcased a much more mature version of the John Mayer than what we saw on Room For Squares. While he still maintained the endearing quality that his songs provided in Room for Squares, Heavier Things delivered a sound his audience had never experienced before. This is the album where he would produce singles like “Clarity”, “Bigger Than My Body” and “Daughters”. They would become just as renowned (if not more) as his previous singles.

My brother purchased Heavier Things for me the Christmas of 2006. It was the first John Mayer album I’d ever owned and I fell in love instantly (seeing him on the cover of the album with a guitar slung across his body was almost too much to handle). Everyday I came home from school, I would push play on my stereo and let John’s voice, and the stories he told on, fill my room. I couldn’t go a day without listening to this album because it provided everything I could want in an album. Firstly, John Mayer was serenading me, and secondly, the album provided a combination of ballads and feel good songs that go beyond pop.

Six years later he would release his next studio album Continuum. It’s an album I consider to be flawless with the exception of his single “Waiting on the World to Change” which many fans regard as his first “sell-out” song. It’s a statement I can’t argue with. While I can appreciate the meaning behind the song, it is completely commercialized and doesn’t flow with the rest of the album. Setting this single aside, the album showcases the blues musician that John Mayer truly is.

The album is full of substance and soul and a majority of the songs are emotionally driven. These songs include “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)”, “Dreaming With A Broken Heart” and the most heart wrenching song the album provides, “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”. When I think of Continuum, this is the song I identify with above all others. It is a song that forces you to feel. It is a song to cry to.  This is an album that is about love, about loss, about life. “Stop This Train” is about the fear of growing older. “The Heart Of Life” is about having belief in others and having faith in the future. “In Repair” is one of the album’s best songs where it talks about moving on. Contiuum not only proves that John Mayer knows how to put an album together, but also his ability as a blues musician. Both “Gravity” (a ballad he is notorious for) and “Vultures” showcase how well John can break it down when it comes to blue guitar.

In Mayer’s collection of albums, it doesn’t get any better than Continuum, and it still holds true, even after releasing two albums since then: Battle Studies and Born and Raised.

For three years Mayer had been silent until he released Battle Studies. Considering how incredible Continuum had been, I was ecstatic to hear what this new album would offer. But Battle Studies leaves something to be desired.

While most of the songs are reminiscent of what audiences had experienced with Continuum, Battle Studies just isn’t the same. Something about the album just screams “movie soundtrack”. While I enjoy the lyrics of the songs on the album, the music isn’t something I’d come to expect from him. “Half Of My Heart” and “Perfectly Lonely” have an almost sprightly, energetic sound that had me confused: wasn’t I listening to a John Mayer album? It was almost like a new (not-so-improved) John Mayer that I was unfamiliar with.

However what he was lacking in “Half of My Heart”, “Perfectly Lonely” and the others like it, he made up for with “Edge Of Desire”. It is the unrequited lover’s anthem. It is the equivalent to Continuum’s “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”. It is a song of desperation, of compromising one’s beliefs for love, a song of loneliness. It is a song that indicates what the album could have been, but never fully achieved. The other songs on the album include his single, “Who Says” (which is about as good as “Waiting On The World To Change”), “Friends, Lovers Or Nothing” and “War Of My Life” which are lesser versions of the songs we heard on Continuum

While Battle Studies has it’s flaws, the album is still likeable enough, and while it didn’t leave me in awe like Continuum had, I was still satisfied with the music.  It’s his newest album, Born and Raised that has left me searching for any trace of John Mayer. The album is like nothing he’s ever done before and not in a good way. Perhaps Battle Studies was preparing me for this. Something about that album had signaled a change in Mayer’s music, but I wasn’t expecting (or prepared for) a change this drastic.

Born and Raised provides audiences with a completely different sound than what we’ve come to expect from a John Mayer album – it’s western.

Every single song sounds similar to the one before it, making the album too repetitive. There is zero variety on this album. In fact, I don’t even consider Born and Raised to be an album because the songs blend together so much that it’s like one song that continues for twelve tracks. If you listen to one song on the album, you’ve essentially heard the rest of them. I can genuinely say that I don’t enjoy any of the songs on the album. If I had to choose one song to listen to it would “Queen Of California”, but that’s about it.

None of the songs on the album are distinctive, making the album entirely too bland. I’m not sure where John has been drawing his inspiration from recently but he needs to find a new muse because Born and Raised just didn’t work. Other songs on the album include, “Shadow Days”, “Something Like Olivia” and “If I Ever Get Around To Living” all of which are just replicas of one another.

Perhaps he’s in an experimental phase with his music and this album was his guinea pig. Maybe he’s attempting to shed the old John Mayer for good, but I genuinely hope this isn’t the case. He has created such incredible albums and music since 2000, and it will truly be a loss to see the Contiuum John Mayer go. I can only hope that he will produce something greater with his future albums, something that leaves me more than satisfied, something like the old John Mayer.

{name} Author: Brittany Barth
Bio: My name is Brittany Barth, an English major currently in my senior year at Penn State. I am a lover of food, John Mayer, all things nautical and cats. It has always been a dream of mine to be the lead singer of a (successful) band. After graduation, my goal is to become a Young Adult fiction novelist, but I would love to be an advice columnist prior to that. I am excited about graduation and what the future holds for me!


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