Paradise Valley review by John Mayer

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  • Released: Aug 20, 2013
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.2 (57 votes)
John Mayer: Paradise Valley
6

Sound — 8
John Mayer is an odd individual as his musical history has shown him try his hand at pop, blues, collaborating with hip hop artists, etc. He began his career with the release of "Room for Squares" in 2001, and his career just kind of took off with a vengeance. Since then he started the John Mayer Trio, which was his "blues only" band separate from his solo work, and has worked with a multitude of other artists across many genres. His reputation took a serious hit with some of his break ups with other celebrities taking place in the public eye, especially when he shared personal stories about the celebrities he had dated in interviews. After a breakup with Taylor Swift she wrote the song "Dear John" which John Mayer publicly took offense to and responded with calling the song poor songwriting. Personally, I wonder if his reported anxiety issues along with his admitted use of anti-anxiety medications explain some of his crazier remarks. After the release of John Mayer's last album, "Born and Raised," there were whisperings that his vocal career was over due to medical issues with his voice but since that time there was an additional surgery and after recovery he is now able to sing once again.

"Paradise Valley" is John Mayer's sixth full length studio album and contains 11 tracks clocking in at a little under 40 minutes. As a change from his last album, there is much more focus on guitar and the songwriting seems to have much more going on. While the album remains laid back it feels more laid back in the way that Eric Clapton sounds laid back. The album opens up with the track "Wildfire" which has clapping, stomping and a tambourine as percussion and otherwise fairly minimal with some guitars and voice. The track "Dear Marie" is an acoustic track which kind of comes across as a more melancholy "Hey There, Delilah" and seems to be written about wondering what his high school girlfriend thinks about him when she sees him in magazines. "Waiting on the Day" is another acoustic track and probably the closest track on the album kind of reaching back to John's earlier pop-oriented music. The track "Paper Doll" is supposedly John Mayer's response to Taylor Swift's "Dear John," and it mostly escapes being a petty broken-heart song. Next up, there is a cover of "Call Me the Breeze," which definitely isn't a bad cover and captures the same vibe as the original. "Who You Love" is a duet with John Mayer's current love interest, Katy Perry. There is a second and much shorter version of "Wildfire" later on the album, but this time more minimal and with Frank Ocean on lyrics. The track "You're No One 'Til Someone Lets You Down" sounds like a leftover track from "Born and Raised," with a heavy country blues feel to it (the lap steel is back!). "Badge and Gun" is an acoustic fingerstyle track with its main strength being some fairly strong songwriting. The album closes out with the track "On the Way Home," and while the lap steel is still getting a little use, it isnt dominating the track.

Lyrics — 7
When I reviewed John Mayer's last album I thought I would be reviewing the last album that he performed his own vocals, but he surprised me and after another surgery recovered his vocals. I still feel like he is very similar to Dave Matthews, vocally. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is always what I think about when I'm listening to John Mayer, and possibly why I always feel like his music is "college music." The vocal performance on the album doesn't expose anything to complain about. As a sample of the vocals, here are some lyrics from the track "Wildfire": "River's strong/ you can't swim inside it/ we could string up some lights/ up the hill beside it/ tonight the moon's so bright you could drive with your headlights out/ cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about/ you look fine fine fine/ put your feet up next to mine/ we can watch that borderline get higher and higher/ say say say/ ain't it been some kind of day/ you and me been catching on like wildfire."

Overall Impression — 8
"Paradise Valley" surprised me; after hearing John Mayer's last album, this isn't what I expected this time around. While there are a few tracks that sound a little like throwbacks to "Born and Raised," the majority of the songs definitely have their own thing going on and are well worth the listen. My favorite track s on the album are the first version of "Wildfire," John's cover of "Call Me the Breeze" and the track "Badge and Gun." My least favorite track on the album is "You're No One 'Til Someone Lets You Down" because it has more of that mopey country blues sound to it which I honestly don't care to hear from John Mayer. Looking at the album as a whole and comparing it to his previous albums, I feel like this is a really strong effort and possibly his best album to date, though it doesn't seem like it is "radio hit"-ready. I would like to see in what direction John Mayer goes the next time around.

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41 comments sorted by best / new / date

    spiff-corgi
    I like John Mayer but he has got very mellow and bland in recent years in terms of his music. It seems to be a thing that happens to solo songwriters when they hit their thirties. It happened to Jason Mraz as well. That being said this is a great listen just to chill out to, and the closing track is a brilliant song. In terms of his personal life, I've always felt like he's had a rough deal. He's dated very famous women who have good PR teams and leagues of fans. He never said anything bad about Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or Jennifer Anniston, yet "sources close to them" would constantly spout mean things about him. So now he gets called a "love rat" despite never cheating or doing anything outrageous with the women he dates. It's very interesting when you think how many boyfriends Taylor Swift has had, and how mean she is about them in her music, and yet she is never called a "love rat" or the woman equivalent.
    BjarnedeGraaf
    Taylor Swift is being bashed a lot by people as well. Most of the parodies on youtube are about her rushing through 20 guys in a couple of years. On-topic though: I love John Mayer, he's awesome and so is this album
    spiff-corgi
    It's only really happening in specific settings though, if you know what I mean. I opened a paper the other day and Mayer was mentioned in reference to his recent split with Katy Perry. He's not big in Britain so to explain who he was the article just called him "love rat John Mayer". It annoyed me because if it was just an article about Taylor Swift or Katy Perry it wouldn't include a little sideline, "***** Taylor Swift". Yeah, people talk about Taylor Swift's serial-dating but she hasn't picked up some kind of added on tag like Mayer has.
    TheOnlyChance
    That has nothing to do with the music. I could care less if John Mayer was spotted skinny-dipping in Montana with Michelle Obama. This isn't TMZ.
    spiff-corgi
    Haha, I know but that was what I was talking about when I said that he gets a bad rep in the press. His music will always stand on its own merit, of course! I don't care what the gossip columns say about him, I was just responding to the part of the article that talked about his romantic history.
    TheOnlyChance
    Couldn't have said it better myself... 3 years ago I was one of the biggest Mayer fans around (and sort of still am), but in all honestly, these last few albums have been a huge one-dimensional musical let down. It probably doesn't help that I'm not a huge Country/Western/Americana fan. I can't be the only one out there that wants another masterpiece like "Continuum".
    dewitt
    I think Continuum had some good moments, but I honestly think Born & Raised is his best album yet (haven't heard all of this one yet). I liked the stuff he did with the John Mayer Trio, too. I think he's the best blues guitarist of his generation, and I'd even dare say he's better than a lot of his predecessors. I like his more mellow and mature side better than his bouncy pop sound, though. To me, most of his older stuff is what's bland, and it feels like he's just now starting to make some music with integrity. It's still got his older pop music aspects, but it's far from what I'd call country. There's definitely a country influence, but it's still John Mayer's pop music at the core with a little hint of country sprinkled in and maybe a touch of some old Neil Young type of folk rock. It's just more mellowed out now, and I think that's a good thing.
    wyldelife
    I agree with a lot of what you said(I'm a huge Mayer fan), but you can't exactly call a song like "Neon" bland, the guitar playing in that song is pretty awesome in all kinds of ways.
    dewitt
    I didn't mean everything was bland, just generally speaking. I just meant that, compared to his newer stuff, his older stuff is what sounds bland to me.
    p_a_morgan
    I love the review. I'm a big Mayer fan, but I have to disagree with one statement in your review and that is the following line. "As a change from his last album, there is much more focus on guitar and the songwriting seems to have much more going on." Born And Raised was a fantastic record with tons of majestic guitar work. I strongly urge you to go back and listen to it. As for Paradise Valley, I will need some time for it to grow on me (As with every new record), but I feel that (Aside from the horribly bland Call Me The Breeze cover and the presence of Katy Perry), it'll be good and will undoubtedly fall right into John's wonderful discography, no matter what turn he took in terms of his style. In my opinion, Mayer can do no wrong and I accept that. LOL.
    Tobyflyr
    He still plays his old songs at every show, so obviously he hasn't forgotten about the fans of his older music. That being said, people should make the music they feel like making. Listening to Mayers lyrics it's easy to hear that he writes the songs for himself. Many of them are very personal. Thats way more admirable than writing music 'for the fans'.
    JV72
    As a guitar player this album wasn't very impressive to me, but as a songwriter I loved it, it's a calm, very melodic and simple album, in terms of sound i think it's a nice mix of Born and Raised and Continuum, I think that John did a very good job this time
    vppark2
    Well written review. I really enjoyed this album, aside from the Katy Perry collab. Also, why is Wildfire with Frank Ocean such a short song? I was wanting more in the end...
    Skyvalve2012
    At least's he's better than Taylor...
    TheOnlyChance
    No kidding. Why do people still care about Taylor Swift and what exactly does she have to do with John Mayer's new album???
    wilsonmanuel062
    JM released this album a year after Born and Raised, breaking his 2-3 year time frame between albums. That being said I think it's a solid record to add to his Born and Raised tour. It is a chill album, but I found nothing special about it. I didn't feel personal connections with this album, unlike Born and Raised. Songs like Face to Call Home, Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey, Born and Raised, Love is a Verb, Age of Worry were songs that had an impact on me and many other people because of the meaning and message they were trying portray. I enjoyed it though, Waiting on the Day is my favourite song on the album and the record was melodically nice. Just feels like he wasn't into making a deep and emotional record.
    D4CE
    I think he's shown an emotional side on songs like I Will Be Found, Waiting On The Day and Dear Marie. I think those are really personal to him, and personally I can relate to them a lot. For the rest I think the entire album has a 'summer' feeling, which isn't a bad thing. Overal a really good album.
    corey3815
    I just can't love this album. The Katy Perry duet has to be rock bottom for him. Born and Raised grew on me, and it has some really special moments. John has gone through several stages. I think it's time to move back to LA, get a new producer, and call Steve and Pino. "TRY!" is 8 years old. It's time for a trio studio album.
    spiff-corgi
    I disagree. He finally seems to be happy with what he's doing and where he's at as a person. Where the Light Is will always be my favourite period of his music, but I don't want him to force that sound again.
    TheOnlyChance
    You honestly think the "Where the Light Is" period was forced? I have to disagree. He grew up playing that style and proved himself as a modern day guitar hero. What for? So he could make an album of 11 similar sounding melancholy tunes? Naaaa... I just can't buy that... I would like to just chalk this all up to an early mid-life crisis
    BjarnedeGraaf
    he said he didnt want John to force it AGAIN. because he went somewhere else with his music with this album, so going back to "where the light is" would actually seem a bit forced, as he would go back to that older sound just for, probably, more money.
    spiff-corgi
    Yeah, what I meant was that I wouldn't want him to force the sound by trying to recreate it again. At that period he was at his best, but a lot has changed since then. He draws inspiration from different things. He's not in the same place artistically, so if he tried to make WTLI2 it would just sound contrived. EDIT: Also, to TheOnlyChance, there is a way to know why he's gone down this route. He did a very personal interview with someone recently where he talked about having all those infamous interviews where he said a few regrettable douchey things, the whole Taylor Swift-gate thing and his severe vocal problems. He explains pretty clearly why he thought it was good for him to go and live in a shack in the country and just get away from it all. It took him away from the state of mind he was in during his Blues era and he listened to a lot of Country during that time.
    TheOnlyChance
    @spiff-corgi: Well then let's hope his voice strengthens up so he can go back to making music that his fans enjoy. I just can't be one of those people who likes music just because of the person making it. John Mayer used to be a "hero" to me of sorts, and now he is just a whiny and sensitive girl. Call his supposed "former" self whatever you want, but personally, I LOVE the douche-bag who brags about sleeping with Jessica Simpson and can play Jimi Hendrix songs almost as good as Jimi himself. Maybe that's just me though...
    dewitt
    I'm a John Mayer fan and I like the music he's making now. You don't speak for everyone, and your opinion isn't the only one. And honestly, if we're gonna be labeling stuff, I feel like his earlier stuff was a lot more girlier than his new stuff. He's free to do what he wants, though, and if you like his older stuff, enjoy it. Let the man make the music he wants to make. Just because it's not the music you want him to make, that doesn't mean it's a cop out. Take it for what it is and enjoy it or move along. If you want his older music, listen to it. If you want some new music like his older music, why don't you make some yourself?
    spiff-corgi
    @dewitt: Yeah he made his name on songs like Daughters and Your Body Is A Wonderland. His new music is far from girly in comparison to that. Anyone who thinks country music is just for girls better stay away from the deep south.
    TheOnlyChance
    I just think its a cop out. You can play the same style or have the same "sound" and still push the material in a more creative direction. To say you must change genres to evolve is a little ambiguous. I personally think he is intimidated to make another rock/blues/guitar driven album because his stuff from the "Where the Light Is" era was so good. With that being said, there is no way to ever know for sure why he has turned into a good ole' country cowboy. The point is, as a whole, the new stuff is decent. However, because of John's high level of talent, I find the newer stuff extremely boring and one-dimensional. To each their own though, definitely.
    BwareDWare94
    I think the best part of John's career so far has been his lyricism, not necessarily his guitar chops. The guy has many absolutely breathtaking songs with lyrics that are soul-reaching. This is exactly the reason that "Heavier Things" is my favorite Mayer album, "Something's Missing" my favorite Mayer song. It's become clear that he doesn't care so much about showing off as he does about writing meaningful music, and in today's world, Americana and Alt-Country are easily two of the best venues for music that's real and yet fairly simple, because there's nothing worse than complexity for complexity's sake. Let the man write wonderful songs--stop worrying about a single instrument. /endrant
    TheOnlyChance
    Exactly. Enough of this. Two lackluster and boring albums were something I would have never expected from Mayer.
    BwareDWare94
    You have these things called ears. They're meant for more than singularly listening for complex guitar work. I don't think Mayer's released a bad or "boring" album.
    TheOnlyChance
    It's about a lot more than "complex guitar work". I just feel like a lot of people will claim to like anything he releases, just because it's "John Mayer". I am not sure about you, but I require a lot more than a name on an album cover to determine the quality of the music I listen to.
    BwareDWare94
    I am quite fond of alt country and americana, so perhaps that is where we differ. I love the direction he's taken with Born and Raised and Paradise Valley.
    dewitt
    I wouldn't say people like anything just because it has his name on it. I don't like his first 2 albums much at all. They're too poppy for my tastes. I don't care for the songs beneath the style displayed on them, either. Continuum really impressed me, though (even though I wouldn't call it a masterpiece), along with Try! I didn't really care for Battle Studies, though. Born and Raised was a breath of fresh air in his career, to me, and it's my favorite album of his so far. I've just made it through his new album now, and I'd say it's a good album, too. His songwriting is just better now than it was back on his first albums. Also, I just realized that you're the same person I've been commenting at through this comment section. You seem to have a real vendetta against the direction he's taken lately, and you don't seem to understand that some people actually like it. It's ok if you don't, but it's not up to you what he does with his career. Let the people who enjoy it enjoy it. His music has matured. Maybe you ought to follow its lead.
    TheOnlyChance
    Cool man. Appreciate the hypocrisy.
    dewitt
    What was hypocritical about anything I said? I don't go around talking about how I wish his older stuff sounded like his newer stuff or that anybody who likes it only does so because they have a bias in his favor. I was just giving you some perspective from a person who doesn't like anything he does and apparently also has what seems to be an inverted opinion on his catalog of music. I'm not saying you're wrong for enjoying the things I don't; I'm saying you should like what you like and let other people like what they like. If you're interested in his new stuff, great. If you're not, stop whining about it. Unless you go kidnap him and hold him hostage until you can force him to make some music you are interested in, you really don't have any say in what he does with his music.
    pickhand
    I like the work John did on this album, although i may not necessarily like the direction he is going. I have followed his musical journey from the beginning, pop to country, and i can say he is one of the most versatile musicians out there. His music has matured with his age and i support his foray into Country music. But i still wish he comes back with a few "oldies" for his fans.