John Mayer: Born and Raised Album Review
John Mayer’s last album, Battle Studies, was a singular mishap. He pushed his usually delightful guitar-pop to a new level of cheesiness. Conversely, his fifth studio album, Born and Raised, is his most interesting work to date. Where his first three albums were hallmarks of quality electric guitar-based pop, Mayer has opted for an acoustic-folk aesthetic. Indeed, he now dons long hair beneath a cowboy hat and sings Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young harmonies – so long to the metrosexual Mayer of old. Though he has always redefined his image per record, there is substance and integrity to this change.
Born and Raised is by no means his greatest record, and might even infuriate some fans, but it is his most important, since it certifies his song-writing talent and stylistic diversity. Previously, Mayer had always relied on his technical talent, jazzifying blues and pop tunes attractively with ornate guitar acrobatics. Here, the “bones” of his song-craft are showcased. A musical rule of thumb is: if it works acoustically it will work electrically. Mayer follows this meticulously, thus both electric and acoustic tracks work. Songs such as the ‘The Age of Worry’, ‘Speak For Me’, ‘Born and Raised’, and ‘Love is a Verb’ epitomise such tight song-writing and quality production.
Mayer’s finest albums – Heavier Things and Continuum – might never be matched again, hence the importance of musical development and maturity. There is nothing deep or profound on this record – the lyrics are often trite and the melodies mundane – but it does signify a whole new direction and willingness to change for this immensely talented singer-songwriter. This album will surely divide Mayer fans, but for now it is an easy, effortless listen for the broader music community.