Let Mayer’s latest CD transport you to ‘Paradise’

Let Mayers latest CD transport you to Paradise

Photo: SONY Music


John Mayer has been making a name for himself in music since the release of his first solo album Room for Squares in 2001. He is a virtuoso guitarist, and he is admired for his thought-provoking, clever lyrics. In addition, Mayer has demonstrated his phenomenal musicianship as he has explored several different musical styles and sounds, appealing to a wide range of audiences. One of the most definite features of his music, however, is his unique, raspy voice. Whenever you hear a song on the radio, you automatically know if it’s John Mayer. That’s what sets him apart and makes him so good.

Mayer’s sixth CD, Paradise Valley, was released Aug. 20, 2013, and was named after a river valley in Montana. While I personally love the bluesy, Southern rock sound he produced on his 2006 album Continuum, I also love the softer, mellower, more laid-back aspect Mayer brings to Paradise Valley, similar to that of his fifth release, Born and Raised. However, there’s something for everyone on this album, regardless of musical taste. Let me enlighten you with a list of my top five favorite songs from the record.

5. Dear Marie

“Dear Marie, tell me what it was I used to be. Dear Marie, tell me what it was I used to be. And if you’re further up the road, can you show me what I still can’t see?”

This song gets stuck in my head all the time, and it also makes me laugh, because Mayer wrote this about trying to find his first love through the Internet (we’ve all done it at some point).

I really love the arpeggiated acoustic guitar line that continues throughout the song, and the subtle percussion and simple electric guitar solos give it an incredibly appealing and relaxing sound that anyone can appreciate.

4. Who You Love (featuring Katy Perry)

“You can’t make yourself stop dreaming who you’re dreaming of. If it’s who you love, then it’s who you love.”

I am a huge sucker for a good harmony, especially vocal harmonies. That’s probably one reason I love this slightly repetitive but incredibly addicting little tune. While the chorus can get a little monotonous after awhile, the vocals are simply fantastic. Katy Perry and John Mayer, as weird as that combination may seem, sound phenomenal together.

I also love the subtle horn parts in the bridge, the drum pattern that sets up the song, and the electric guitar riffs that compliment the vocal melody, especially toward the end, when there is a brief call-and-response section between Perry’s vocals and Mayer’s guitar lines. Perfection.

3. You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down

“Yes, I’ve been told that some people grow old without losing a part of their soul. But if that is true, I don’t wish it on you. There’s so much to adore in a heart that is blue. There’s a light in your eyes that is pure, that you won’t give away anymore. But just think of the things we can talk about now. You’re no one ‘til someone lets you down.”

I love this one because of the lyrics. There are some lines that are incredibly straightforward and easily relatable, and then there are some lines that carry heavily symbolism, like, “There’s so much to adore in a heart that is blue.” This is the kind of writing that many songwriters try to create but can’t pull off. Unless you’re John Mayer. Then you can pull it off without a problem.

Musically, this song never leaves my mind. It’s so catchy, and it has a little bit of a Johnny Cash-type vibe. I will admit that it does get a little old after awhile, and it is very predictable, but the lyrics definitely fit the music, and I can’t stop listening to it.

2. Paper Doll

“Paper doll, come try it on. Step out of that black chiffon. Here’s a dress of gold and blue, sure was fun being good to you. This one we made just for fall, and winter runs a bit too small. This mint green is new for spring. My love didn’t cost a thing. You’re like 22 girls in one, and none of them know what they’re runnin’ from. Was it just too far to fall for a little paper doll?”

Paper Doll was the first single John Mayer released before the full release of Paradise Valley, and it was very well-received. Personally, my favorite elements in this chart are the drum intro, the electric guitar riffs and the clever lyrics.

The electric guitar is pretty simple and laid-back, but there is a uniquely melodic solo that makes up a nice instrumental bridge, and Mayer also uses some fresh pedalboard effects as the guitar closes out the song. The guitar line is just as catchy as the actual chorus.

I also love how simple this song is vocally, because it really draws attention to the witty lyrics. It’s rumored that this song is a bit of a slam against Taylor Swift, as their romantic relationship ended a few years ago and she wrote a pretty derogatory song about Mayer titled, Dear John, that carries on for almost seven minutes.

While Paper Doll may not be a 100 percent portrayal of his relationship with Swift, he does make some subtly hilarious jabs at her. For example, “You’re like 22 girls in one, and none of them know what they’re running from” is potentially a slam on Swift’s song 22 that has become increasingly popular. Also, “Fold a scarf, Moroccan red,” could be a slam on the Moroccan red color Swift uses on her newest album, titled Red. It’s so passive-aggressive and so brilliant all at the same time.

1. Badge and Gun

“Give me my badge and gun, give me the songs that I once sung. Give me those jet-black, kick-back, lay-down nights alone. This house is safe and warm, but I was made to chase the storm, taking the whole world on with big ole’ empty arms.”

Some people think this song is a bit more amateur and less sophisticated than any other number on this record, but I have to disagree. My favorite aspect of this one is how Mayer demonstrates his vocal uniqueness.

After having surgery to remove nodules on his throat, Mayer hasn’t been able to hit some of the high notes he used to hit without a problem. But that doesn’t keep him from smoothly sliding into his falsetto and giving this song an acoustic indie-folk vibe that I absolutely love and can’t get enough of.

Badge and Gun also has some really nice musical elements, including ad-libbed vocal echoes and a sweet vocal harmony that forms the bridge. This is definitely my favorite song on the record.

Overall, Paradise Valley is one of my favorite John Mayer albums to date. I definitely recommend it to all listeners of all ages, whether Mayer’s music has been a staple in your iTunes library for the past 10 years or whether you’ve never even heard of his music before.

Kick back, take an hour, and just give it a listen. You’ll see what I mean.