John Mayer's 'Born and Raised': What the Critics Are Saying
Connecticut-born singer-songwriter John Mayer took a much needed two-year hiatus from the bright lights of stardom in 2010, leaving behind a path of destruction that included a dicey Playboy interview and landed him in some hot water with a slew of A-list ladies. Now, the former bad boy is back and he’s changed his tune with his fifth studio album, Born and Raised, released May 22. The 13-track LP combines co-production by Mayer and Grammy Award-winning Don Was, as well as guest appearances by Sara Watkins, Chris Botti and Jim Keltner.
Reviews have been mostly positive, with many claiming that Mayer has finally found his humility. The critics are willing to give the guy another chance with this honest offering that, according to reviewers, is a throwback to the Laurel Canyon days circa the 1970s.
Read a sampling of what the critics are saying about Born and Raised below:
Billboard: On his latest, the singer, songwriter, guitarist and (increasingly) harmonica player works with Grammy Award-winning co-producer Don Was and a small, tight ensemble that features Chuck Leavell (the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton) on keyboards, while Chris Botti, Sara Watkins, Jim Keltner and Greg Leisz make guest appearances. It's one of Mayer's most diverse and exploratory albums yet, trying on a variety of different styles to accompany a set of particularly reflective and soul-searching tunes.
"Love is a Verb": Somewhere Curtis Mayfield is smiling as Mayer taps into a soulful, organic "People Get Ready" vibe -- which, at only 2:24, could carry another minute or so without real effort. "You can't get through love/On just a pile of IOU's" is arguably the album's best lyric, too.
Entertainment Weekly: Taylor Swift, are you listening? Because this is the closest thing to an apology that you're gonna get. After dumping America's sweetheart, calling Jessica Simpson ''sexual napalm,'' and dropping the N-word in Playboy, John Mayer is asking for forgiveness. Kind of. ''I'm a good man with a good heart/Had a tough time, got a rough start,'' he sings on Born and Raised. ''But my shadow days are over now.''
You can imagine the onetime king of the Sunset Strip running for the hills to strum his guitar under Neil Young's harvest moon. True, you can still play Spot the Ex-Girlfriend in the lyrics. (Is ''Queen of California'' about Jennifer Aniston? Is ''Speak for Me'' a response to Swift's Mayer-hating on 2010's Speak Now?)
NY Daily News: Unlike earlier Mayer albums, which mined blues, power-trio rock or granola folk, his latest CD sets its sights on the rustic peak of the singer-songwriter movement from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s slower, softer and more acoustic-oriented than any of his earlier CDs, with the clear intent to make something more intimate and revealing. That downshift may also reflect the fact that he’s had vocal problems in the last year, encouraging him to sing in a more easy and hushed style.
To seal the mood, Mayer plays the harmonica throughout, wheezing with the whine of Neil Young back when he cruised the dusty lanes of Topanga Canyon.
People: You gotta feel for the guy: This is a shimmering album, perfect for taking on the road in the glow of spring and summer.
Tunes like "Queen of California" – with its shades of '70s soft rock – radiate a real warmth, as Mayer reflects on his time in the doghouse for bad behavior. With such earnestness and tasteful, understated musicianship, he wins you over.
USA Today: Considering Mayer's penchant for adolescent blather in interviews, he's impressively mature as he looks back on a rough start and "tries to find the man I never got to be." If only that man were less earnest and reliant on Neil Young poses. His formidable guitar chops are curtailed to play up unremarkable vocals in airy, twangy Americana tunes that beg for a Crazy Horse kick. Download: "Queen of California", "Born and Raised."
Rolling Stone: The stylistic change-up and unburdening tone make for some of the most convincing music of Mayer's career. He recorded much of the LP with producer Don Was before he had throat surgery last year, so his pillowy voice has a tug of parched vulnerability. As usual, his playing is restrained and elegant; he's a singer-songwriter with a session man's soul, so every breezy solo or sun-dappled acoustic spindle is comfy and luxe like a spun-silk blanket.