John Mayer: Paradise Valley

Written by August 19th, 2013 at 10:03 am

John-Mayer-Wildfire
John Mayer
Paradise Valley
(Columbia)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The problem with John Mayer is that he forces you to look at his music through the prism of his very public and often cringe worthy personal life. Perhaps that’s true with other high profile musicians but seldom has an introspective, roots based singer/songwriter clearly motivated by country, folk, soul and blues made himself look so contradictory by dating glitzy, somewhat vapid female pop stars. His habit of seemingly courting tabloid trash stories with quotes that don’t do his shy, innocent man-child appearance any favors is another notch in a quickly accumulating debit column.

However, removed from the soap opera surrounding Mayer is a talented songwriter and distinctive if mawkish singer whose recent output, crafted in part by producer Don Was’ back to basics approach, is eminently listenable. But that doesn’t mean that many of these songs aren’t too slight to register even after hearing them repeatedly. True to form, Mayer sings everything in his trademarked puffy pillow voice on an album so smooth, professionally crafted and ultimately insignificant that it seems to be made for dentist offices and elevators in the buildings that house them.

A cover of the late JJ Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze” coaxes some relaxed blues out Mayer’s siesta but even that song, which seems to have been a studio jam since it doesn’t end, can’t inject life into this snooze fest. Two versions of the opening “Wildfire,’ the second inexplicably sung by Frank Ocean and having little connection with the first, seems like padding on an album that is only 40 minutes long. The amiable country shuffle with pedal steel of “You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down” is Willie Nelson lite and never rises to the occasion of its intriguing title. The closing “On the Way Home” is a clichéd end of summer fling as uninspired as its name and subject matter. The accusatory “Paper Doll” seems like a bland, tissue thin rebuttal of sorts to Taylor Swift’s “Dear John” that feels droopier than most of what even the antiseptic Swift churns out.

Give Mayer credit for keeping his languid country pop organic and as rootsy as someone with his honeyed voice can sound. Yet that only reveals the mediocre quality of the bulk of this material and is no excuse for his sleepwalking performance of it. He needs to do better to regain some of his MIA credibility.

  • Tammie Jones

    I laughed so hard reading this review I practically cried:))))))) Wow! The reviewer must really hate John Mayer. Either that or they got big bucks for being so excruciatingly nasty they probably helped the CD sell itself. It must have taken days to craft all the insults included. The one about being worse than Taylor Swift was inspired. But the unrelenting tone was so mean, and the continued references to John’s supposed” puffy pillow, honeyed voice”, and his luck with beautiful women makes me think there was possibly some jealousy involved. I know I will be running out to find a CD to listen to and telling all my friends. Thanks!

  • Aaron Howard

    Agreed. This wasn’t my favorite Mayer album and it wasn’t my least favorite. But this review is so o

  • Aaron Howard

    I agree with Tammie on this review. John Mayer is nowhere near my favorite singer-songwriter and this is not my favorite of his albums. But this garbage is so overtly nasty, so clearly biased by a pre-existing hatred for the artist, that it compels me to disregard everything from this reviewer as bitter and needless personal rants. I wouldn’t have any respect for this tripe if it was aimed at Kesha.

  • Tom

    Agreed with all the commenters… This is an insanely gossip, trash media driven puff piece bitch-off with so little that really addresses the music but my God doesn’t skimp on the pre-supposed prejudice. Whomever wrote this? Don’t expect Rolling Stone or the NY times to come calling quick (and again, I like Mayer as I think he’s yes, a provocative celebrity – thank God and a seriously low key, old school folk/pop artist but by no means changing the world but this is a review thats only about how a muso-douche likes to rant at the office. So bored of how knowing and ultimately self serving… second rate internet music review is becoming. This is depressing and beyond cynical)

  • Tom

    Agreed with all the commenters… This is an insanely gossip, trash media driven puff piece bitch-off with so little that really addresses the music but my God doesn’t skimp on the pre-supposed prejudice. Whomever wrote this? Don’t expect Rolling Stone or the NY times to come calling quick (and again, I like Mayer as I think he’s yes, a provocative celebrity – thank God and a seriously low key, old school folk/pop artist but by no means changing the world but this is a review thats only about how a muso-douche likes to rant at the office. So bored of how knowing and ultimately self serving… second rate internet music review is becoming. This is depressing and beyond cynical) T

  • Chris

    I agree 100%

  • Dayra

    You are so wrong. It’s obvious that you’ve had something against him before this album. You are being extremely harsh, and that’s not something NORMAL people do or should do.

    Whatever you think about John Mayer… your opinions are your opinions, but you know what? He is WAY BETTER than you, and this is A FACT, not an opinion. And no, I don’t really know you, but this piece of writing shows clearly what kind of a person you are. You just wan’t to shine and look cool, right? Guess what? You didn’t. You should be a little bit more mature, and keep your personal problems or self-esteem problems to yourself and don’t let them cloud reality. John is still extremely talented and underrated, which is good because nowadays most of the music that gets idolatrized and played on the media is just mainstream, unworthy music that they put in our heads perhaps by having a “catchy” rhythm. John is still among the best singers, songwriters, and guitar players, you like it or not. His music is respected, liked, and loved by many. And he doesn’t need your opinion, I bet he could care less. He knows how gifted is and everyone with a good pair of ears does too.

    Take care, and please reflect. If you want to critizice, well, who am I to stop you, but at least have the moral and decency to think before you speak, and respect at least a little. I strongly believe you made wrong decisions with your word choice.

    Oh, and I TOTALLY agree with Tammie Jones’ comment. Seriously, did you get paid or something? I was seeing your other ratings and wow… this was obviously fixed. You’ve rated most 3.5, 3, 4, and I even saw a 5. For a moment I thought you were just bitter and harsh on everyone, but you’re clearly not, just with John Mayer because he certainly does not deserve a 2.5. You’ve underrated him and REALLY overrated others… There has to be something personal here… or maybe your taste is just…

  • Santiago Pombo

    You know that an album review will be worthless when it starts with a tabloid sounding statement like this one… “The problem with John Mayer is that he forces you to look at his music
    through the prism of his very public and often cringe worthy personal
    life”….

    Mr Hal Horowitz, have you considered writing for Us Weekly? I have a strong feeling you would be a far more successful tabloid writer than the shallow music critic you currently claim to be.

  • Joe Weidner

    I have to chuckle at the above review. Why? Because it’s my estimation through years of examination {probably before the above reviewer was even born} that throughout the years…anytime a “single, album, artist, or band” got a very NEGATIVE Review it just made the “general buying public” want to rush out and get their hands on a copy as quickly as possible. So in your attempt to do a dis-service to the artist, you are actually helping him make a living. Smile.

  • Stewart Clawson

    um…Douche much? Oh, and too bad about your grade in creative writing 101.

  • Aaron Kelly

    Wowzers! Where on Earth did this army of John Mayer defenders come from? Kudos. Though, personally, I thought this review was abundantly honest and consistent with what ‘ol John has become. That is, more concerned with chasing tail, being in the public eye, and dressing like some kind of reject Desire-era Bob Dylan. One of the best singers? One of the best songwriters?? Is this what it’s come to?!? I guess I just assumed it was a group consciousness that we haven’t heard anything by him that really takes off the floaties and steps out of the kiddie pool and into the deep end. Calling him one of the best in either of those categories is a slap in the face to a lot of songwriters/singers who bust their ass every night, staying up until the wee hours of the morning twisting and tweaking a single line because they can’t rest until it’s perfect. THAT is the oozing passion that I want from a songwriter. The dependency on the craft, the obsession, the “for the sake of the song” mentality that clearly manifests itself in the final product. For a recent example, see Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern.”

    Perhaps he’s one of the best songwriters in the niche in which he exists, or in today’s modern pop superdome, but clearly nothing more than that. This is, after all, American Songwriter, and should absolutely hold the bar a little bit higher in-regards to the craft of songwriting.

  • B Dawg

    This new album was not good. That is my personal opinion. I can listen to maybe two tracks of this album.

    People need to stop worshipping the artist and actually start listening to the songs objectively.

    Can you even really compare this album to Continuum or even Battle Studies? Any song on those two albums contain more soul and passion than all the tracks on Paradise Valley.

    Sorry John. Try again.

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