John Mayer has always been something of an old soul when it comes to music. He has shown it by teaming up with blues legends like B.B. King, and he proves it once again on his newest release, Born and Raised, the follow-up to 2009’s Battle Studies.
Released on Tuesday (May 22), Born and Raised finds the 34-year-old reflecting on adulthood and putting his “Shadow Days” behind him (“It’s nice to make some love that I can finally feel,” he sings on the track). While Mayer hasn’t completely let go of his lady-killer image, as when he’s yearning over another man’s girl on “Something Like Olivia,” he spends more time expressing regret over unfulfilled dreams and what it means to be an adult.
Last week MTV News sat in on an album listening session at New York’s Electric Lady Studios, where Mayer told the room, “If you’re lucky, you get to make giant evolutionary steps from your first record.” We’ve highlighted five key tracks from the LP below, and we’ll let you decide if the singer/songwriter made those giant steps.
“Born and Raised”: The album’s title track seems to sum up where John is these days. With harmonica and guitar backing him, he admits, “Now and then, I pace my place/ I can’t retrace how I got here/ I cheat the light/ To check my face/ It’s slightly harder than last year.” Later he says, “Then all at once/ It gets hard to take/ It gets hard to fake what I won’t be/ ’Cause one of these days/ I’ll be born and raised/ And it’s such a waste to grow up lonely.” Mayer even addresses the heartbreak of his parents’ 2009 divorce, singing, “I still got faith/ I call on both of my brothers/ I got a mom, I got a dad/ But they do not have each other.”
On “If I Ever Get Around to Living,” Mayer picks up where “Born and Raised” leaves off, giving fans a glimpse of pre-celebrity life in Connecticut. He wonders whether the fame and success is even real: “Maybe it’s all a dream I’m having at 17/ I don’t have tattoos/ And very soon mother will be calling me saying, ’Come upstairs, you got some work to do.’ ” In the end, he shakes off the fantasy, telling himself, “I think you better wise up, boy.” He repeats that line over and over like a mantra.
Fans who are worried that the sexy Mayer of songs like 2003’s “Come Back to Bed” doesn’t make an appearance will be happy to hear “Love Is a Verb,” a track full of longing. “So you gotta show me/ That love is a verb,” he pleads. Simple and straightforward, Mayer reminds us that love is something you do, not just a word you say.
For “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey,” Mayer takes us to his occasional home of New York City, where he’s “trying to find the man I never got to be.” As the title suggests, the country-tinged song is all about drowning your sorrows in late nights and lots of whiskey, going to sleep and then waking up to do it all over again. And though Mayer knows that routine won’t get him anywhere, he’s just trying to get to a place where he can feel again.
The album takes another turn for the romantic near the end. “You know my paper heart/ The one I filled with pencil/ I think I might have gone and inked you in,” he sings on “A Face to Call Home.” Sure, the album is full of 30-something reflection, but Mayer can still craft a smart love song, and he’s at his best on songs like this one.
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