Monday, November 16, 2009

One Track Minded

It's the eve of a very big day for music lovers!

At midnight tonight, iTunes will automatically deploy my pre-ordered copy of John Mayer's Battle Studies. The review has already claimed it to be the "best and most adventurous of his four studio albums," and I'll cheerfully second that motion.

John Mayer is an interesting case study in the genre-segmented music industry. Guys love to hate him, girls scribble his lyrics in their diary, US Weekly is still talking about his love life and old-school players like Rolling Stone so desperately want to classify him as a pop sell-out. It's not really surprising that the Rolling Stone review gave Battle Studies 3 stars, but their average user rating was closer to a 4.5. But, even they had to admit that his new album "is a real study in craftmanship and understated guitar ninja-dom". At the end of the day, you can't deny what an incredible musician he is.

Thanks to a thoughtful friend in a high place, I got an early release of it a week ago so I've had some time to let it resonate in my headphones. If you're a devoted follower (like your's truly) you know that JM has a diverse repertoire that ranges from pop ballads and poetic love songs to full swing blues and hard rock. I think this fourth album is different because he's finally earned freedom from the record label and in turn has fused all those sounds into one coherent collection. He managed to reach the pop crowd with the "Half of My Heart" duo with Taylor Swift, the classic rock crowd with his interpretation of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" and the US Weekly spectators with "Heartbreak Warfare". (Is he publicly jabbing Jennifer Aniston?!) And inevitably, girls will swoon as they deconstruct the other 50% of the album and try to interpret his quest to "find ways to keep the good alive" in romance. This is why I think it's brilliant, but I'll let you decide for yourself. My list of personal favorites is still evolving.

But consider yourself warned; this isn't his most upbeat and optimistic release. Once he set the album title Battle Studies, he took the theme to a new level and carried it out through other titles like "Heartbreak Warfare", "War Of My Life" and "Assassin". He said so himself, "(it's more) observations and a little bit of advice on relationships... kind of like a heartbreak handbook".

If you have better cable than I do, you should set your tivo to the Fuse Channel tomorrow night as they broadcast his first album performance live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

There are some other great things happening tomorrow as far as New Music Tuesdays go, but alas, I do have a day job...

1 comment:

  1. "Kristin Whitley likes this."

    Glad I got a shout out as a "friend in high places," although I wish they were slightly higher because dispite my best efforts, my name is still not on the list at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight for the MySpace Secret Show (after asking no less than 5 different contacts).

    Alas, I agree with your review. Although at first listen it was not a show-stopper for me, I quickly grew to love the album.

    At first I thought to myself, "This is much different than his other albums." But as I listend to John Mayer on shuffle this weekend, I realized that tracks from "Heavier Things" were flowing seamlessly into "Battle Studies," then back into Continuum. Each of his songs sound completely different independently, but they all paint a full picture of who he is as an artist.

    Regardless of the public's perception, his talent is undeniable. I will always count myself among the Mayer-ites.

    I'll also be live tweeting from the Fuse show tomorrow, so if anyone wants updates, follow me @kdub1820