“Battling The Blues” (Quadnews.net)
Throughout the years, I had never thought of John Mayer as anything more than a commercialized pop star that caused teenage girls to go ga-ga. With his older hits never really striking a musical chord with me, I never payed much attention to his other work. However, this summer my good friend turned me on to his work in the John Mayer Trio. This completely opened my eyes to Mayer’s skills as a jazz/blues guitarist and I grew a new appreciation for his music. Upon hearing of the Nov. 17th release of his newest album, Battle Studies, I decided I had to check it out. Mayer continues to pleasantly debunk my previous views.
This newest release really goes where no popular work by him has gone before. The album continues to showcase Mayer’s talent as a pop star with lighter, catchy tunes such as the track “Half of my Heart,” featuring a chorus with Taylor Swift. The first single, “Who Says,” is also a jam that will get stuck in your head for a few hours. The song surprisingly pushes the card for lyrics in a single, singing about topics such as “getting stoned,” which makes me think of Mayer’s old TV show that showcased his carefree and ball-busting attitude.
However, the one aspect of this album that really caught my attention is that, for the first time in his pop music releases, he really showcases his talent as a guitarist and a composer. Songs such as “Assassin,” have a smooth jazz feel with a beautifully flowing guitar solo reminiscent of his work in the Trio. The feel-good vibe and continuously smooth guitar licks of “Perfectly Lonely,” really take me back to the relaxing feeling of summer beach trips. Mayer also pays homage to rock legends Robert Johnson and Cream with an awesome cover of the well known classic rock jam “Crossroads.” His uses of chorus harmonics and softer guitar riffs add a completely new feeling to the song while still maintaining its original legendary sound.
One other awesome aspect of this album is the viral marketing campaign launched on his site a few weeks ago to promote the release. The site hosts a brand new music video for the first track on the album “Heartbreak Warfare.” However, this is no ordinary music video. The video utilizes a new technology known as Augmented Reality. What this means is that if the view has a webcam on their computer they can interact with the video by printing out a special symbol from the website (www.johnmayer.com) and lining it up with the symbol on the screen. When this is done, the video will start and by moving the paper in your hand you will be in control of a three-dimensional video with John Mayer walking around, playing, and singing in the middle of it all.
This album overall impressed me and I can honestly say I’ve been listening to it constantly since I got it. The album as a whole possesses a new smooth, yet somewhat trippy ambiance, giving Mayer’s pop audience something new to chew on for a while. His skills as a guitarist are finally displayed on a widespread scale and I couldn’t be more impressed.
Published Version: The Quad News 11/23/09