John Mayer Grows Up On "Born and Raised"
But if you don’t instantly melt at the sound of his sexy, slightly raspy, and, in this case, rather bluesy voice, and instantly forget his boyish troublemaking ways, you may not be human.
Mayer’s fifth studio album, “Born and Raised,” is his most mature yet. And it should be, considering all he has been through the past three years since his last album, “Battle Studies”: his parents got divorced, he was called “twisted” by beloved country artist Taylor Swift, and he moved to Montana to isolate himself from the “corruption of the big city.”
“Born and Raised” showcases a more mature man, his sound growing with him, revealing a sort of California bluegrass.
His classic sound is still there, with influences from early 70s singer-songwriters, as well as blues. Mayer experiments with, and seems to have mastered, the harmonica.
“Queen of California,” the first track, sets the mood with a gentle melody accompanied by fun, easy lyrics. The instruments carry you away with them, all the way to California, as Mayer sings, “Looking for the sun that Neil Young hung/After the gold rush of 1971.”
Though his more notorious side shows as he lusts after another man’s woman in “Something Like Olivia,” “Shadow Days” touches on his recognition that he has gone through some darker times, singing “I’m a good man, with a good heart / Had a rough time, got a rough start / But I finally learned to let it go”, but has come out a better for it, “I’m open, knowing somehow /That my shadow days are over.” Strategic move to release this as the first single off of the record.
In title track “Born and Raised,” with vocals by David Crosby and Graham Nash (and the harmonica in full force), Mayer gives us insight into his personal family life. His lyrics get more personal: “I still have dreams, they’re not the same / They don’t fly as high as they used to”; they even reference his parent’s recent divorce: “I got a mom, I got a dad / But they do not have each other.” It’s not as sad as it is peacefully matter-of-fact.
Lyrically, the songs deliver what you would expect from a John Mayer album. While still introspective, self-reflective of his experiences, without being demeaning, “Born and Raised” seems to be even more personal and emotional. He reflects heavily on his age and his past.
In “Age of Worry”, Mayer comforts and advises his younger audience, singing, “Don’t be scared to walk alone / Don’t be scared to like it,” and “Dream your dreams but don’t pretend / Be friends with what you are.” They may not be the most revolutionary or insightful lyrics ever written on the subject, but true nonetheless.
Mayer’s changes, both personally and artistically, are positive and impressive: He has shown growth. After much anticipation, “Born and Raised” offers something for everyone: classic Mayer for the die-hards, infused with an easy California vibe, bluegrass sound, and even some less obvious additions for the old-schoolers who can appreciate the legends he brought on board to help craft this album. It lives up to its expectation; one could even dare to argue that it even exceeds it.
Reach staff reporter Chelsea Stessel here.