By Julie O’Neil
The week before Thanksgiving, among the stress of multiple papers and the excitement of break, I eagerly anticipated John Mayer’s new albums, "Battle Studies," which hit stores November 17. Luckily, I was not disappointed. The album, Mayer’s fourth, is a mellow masterpiece definitely worthy of the musician’s respected place in rock music.
The eleven track disc is ethereal and electric, filled with bold guitars and heartbreaking lyrics. The entire album feels very old-school, with a mix of southern blues and incredible rock ‘n’ roll guitar solos. It is an obvious follow-up to 2008′s beautiful and slow "Continuum." It is a far cry from the pop stylings of 2001′s "Room For Squares" and 2003′s "Heavier Things" but a welcome artistic growth.
First single "Who Says" is probably the bounciest and most upbeat of the songs, and even it is still quite mellow. The song asks the question everyone’s been asking: "Who says I can’t get stoned?" Well, John, I can think of a few people who would say you can’t. But beyond the defiant chorus, the song is a great single and really represents the album as a whole. It’s folksy, bluesy, and full of Mayer’s trademark wordplay.
The rest of the album focuses on battle studies. That is, if the battle in question is the battle for love. The songs depict various romantic up and downs, Mayer singing about falling in and out of love and fighting off heartbreak. For instance, "Half Of My Heart", featuring country-pop sensation Taylor Swift, explains what it’s like to want to be with someone but to know you should really just run in the opposite direction. These sentiments are echoed in the sexy and eerie "Edge Of Desire".
At the same time Mayer spends some tracks talking about what it’s like to be alone, without someone to love. He’s able to make this kind of freedom sound appealing, masking a broken heart. On "Perfectly Lonely" he sings, "Nothing to do, nowhere to be/A simple little kind of free…/I’m perfectly lonely, yeah/’Cause I don’t belong to anyone and nobody belongs to me."
"Heartbreak Warfare," the album’s opener, is much more longing and emotional than "Perfectly Lonely": "Once you want it to begin/No one really ever wins/In heartbreak warfare…/Good to know it’s all a game/Disappointment has a name/It’s heartbreak warfare" This beautiful song elevates the message of Jordin Spark’s "Battlefield" to something poetic and thought-provoking.
All in all, beyond Mayer’s rough and wonderful voice and his easy lyrics, his obvious gift is his guitar skills. Honestly, this guy is one of the best guitarists in the music business today. If you need proof, just check out "Crossroads." As with all of Mayer’s albums, there are many layers to Battle Studies. I can’t wait to finish those aforementioned papers and keep listening to discover them all.
John Mayer’s Battle Studies is in stores now via Sony Records.