I’ve made it no secret on here that I’m a HUGE John Mayer fan. I would always bop my head along to his earlier stuff, but it all changed for me when he released his Continuum album. It struck chords within me that I didn’t even know I had. I’m not exagerating in any sense when I say that Continuum literally changed my life. So you can only imagine my excitement when JM”s newest album, Battle Studies, dropped in November of 2009. I’ve delayed in writing this post so that I could allow the songs to sink into my consciousness before I commented on them. Also, I’m attending a JM concert here in OKC in a mere three days (WOOT WOOT!!), so I’m getting myself all revved up:) And yes, I realize that this post will likely bore the heck out of those who don’t like John– but I know at least one person who may enjoy it. (What up, CBL!!) And I know for certain I will enjoy writing it.
First- a little eye candy.
So without further ado–my thoughts on Battle Studies:
Battle Studies is a house album. Meaning that John set up a studio in his home, worked out what he wanted to say and the sound he wanted to achieve, and then he walked into another room and started recording. I love this concept. It gives the album a stripped down, intimate feel that’s so different from his others. John prides himself on continually reinventing his sound, never releasing the “same” album twice—and he’s certainly hit the mark with Battle Studies. In an effort to fully convey how I hear these songs, I’ve linked each title to my favorite performances. I hope that you will give them a listen, and even if you don’t consider yourself a Mayer fan, I think you may find yourself appreciating him as a musician at the very least.
Track 1: Heartbreak Warfare – Talk about starting an album off with a bang. I had heard this song previewed acoustically by John over the past few months, as he worked on perfecting it. I adored the acoustic version, but I believe this hyped-up version will be absolutely killer live. In talking about this song, he has mentioned how it’s never a good idea to try and make a girl jealous. I found that interesting because it’s certainly not the hidden meaning behind the song that I interpret. I personally relate it to marriage, and the constant battle required to keep it going strong. For me, the song shines in the bridge: “I don’t care if we don’t sleep at all tonight. Let’s just fix this whole thing now. I swear to God we’re gonna get it right if you lay your weapon down. Red wine and ambien, you’re talking shit again, it’s heartbreak warfare. Good to know it’s all a game. Disappointment has a name–it’s heartbreak warfare.” My favorite line of the whole thing though: “If you want more love, why don’t you say so?”. Well….since you’re asking….yes, please.
Track 2: All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye – Many commenters on the album have said that they believe this song is about Jennifer Aniston. Me, I couldn’t really care about that. Hoochy was up in my business. It’s very simple in its melody, with lots of layering in the chorus, so that John is doing three part harmony. At first, I would skip over this one, simply because it is sooooo mellow. But the more I listen, the more it grows on me. Especially when I try to sing all three parts too! I’ve always felt it has an Everly Brothers feel to it.
Track 3: Half of My Heart (w/Taylor Swift) – I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift. I think she’s a decent songwriter, but absolutely cannot sing live, which for me is a dealbreaker. She and John blend nicely on this track, but I’m more anxious to hear him sing it alone, live, just him. That may be what it takes to change my mind on this one. It’s the only track I skip these days. I must say though, that from day one, I’ve felt Fleetwood Mac vibes just oozing from this song. Guess John does too, since he’s performing it live recently as an opening to a cover of Dreams.
Track 4: Who Says – I was very surprised that this song was the first single. It begins with (and repeats throughout) “Who says you can’t stoned””. For a mainsteam artist such as John, it’s kind of surprising to imagine his record label agreeing for this to be on his album, much less a single. You can see in the attached clip that he also had reservations about this, but his explanation and interpretation of the song enabled me to listen to it in an entirely new light.
Track 5: Perfectly Lonely – This is the only truly upbeat song on the track, and I LOVE it! A definite head-bopper. He stated before one performance of it that it’s “a feeling that lasts about as long as the song does”. Makes total and utter sense once you hear it.
Track 6: Assassin – I’m very intrigued by how this track is going to work live . [I found the attached live clip after I wrote that statement– so mystery solved!] A few youtube snippets of him trying acoustically were very interesting to say the least. (I may love John, but I can admit when he fails—i.e. recent Playboy interview. But I also fully respect that fact that we’re all human, and to forgive is divine.) From the first time I heard this mysterious song, I felt like it had a Peter Gabriel vibe that was unmistakable. I’ve read a few reviews that described this track as “indulgent” and “overly dramatic”. I couldn’t disagree more. I feel like it’s a glowing stand-out on Battle Studies. And did I mention sexy as hell? Hot hot hot.
Track 7: Crossroads – Crossroads is a classic Cream/Robert Johnson song that John is covering on this album. He almost always covers a song by one of his idols on his albums- the last one had a version of Hendrix’s Bold as Love. This particular version I’ve linked to is John performing it with his idol, Eric Clapton. What I would have given to see that one live!
Track 8: War of My Life – We all have those songs that speak to our soul. That each and every lyric feels as if it was written just for you. When I first heard this, my favorite track on the album, I was like, “Well, welcome to my head, Johnny Boy. Enjoy your visit.” This performance gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it. If you don’t listen to any other song on this album, please listen to this one!
Track 9: Edge of Desire – As a gesture token of appreciation to his fans for being such adamant supporters of Batte Studies, JM recorded this stripped down version and released it on his website. Recorded at 3 in the morning, it takes on a life of its own, that is impossible to describe. A vulnerability that many don’t expect from him. “I’m scared you’ll forget about me”. Who hasn’t felt that way?
Track 10: Do You Know Me – This song is short. Very, very short. Yet the more I listen, the more I think, there’s a deep message here that I think we can all relate to. “Do you know me….at all?” Unfortunately, I was unable to find a live version of this particular track. I hope he performs it this Friday—maybe I can sneak a little video action!
Track 11: Friends, Lovers or Nothing – John’s story behind the writing of this song truly says it all….you’re either friends, lovers or nothing. Is there really anything in between? I must admit that this is not my favorite track on the album, but I do enjoy his live performances of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it on Friday.
So there we have it. The crazy, funky, Mayerness that fills my head on a daily basis. I hope you enjoy Battle Studies. Go now. Go listen.