The public tends to view John Mayer as two different people: the musician and the celebrity. In the past 12 years, Mayer has not only found fame through radio-friendly hits (“Your Body Is A Wonderland” and “Waiting On The World To Change”), but he has also found it in the pages of weekly gossip magazines. In the past, it seemed as though Mayer could never properly live in both of these worlds at once, and the controversy surrounding him often overshadowed his music. However, on his sixth studio album, Paradise Valley, Mayer has finally found the perfect balance between musician and celebrity, and he’s never sounded better.
In 2012, Mayer returned from a brief hiatus with a new album (Born and Raised) and a fresh sound inspired by various country folk albums, such as Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush (which he mentions in the album’s second single, “Queen of California”). Although this album differed from his past efforts, it was musically one of his best. On Paradise Valley, Mayer and producer Don Was (Bonnie Raitt and Old Crow Medicine Show) have not only created music in the same country folk/Americana genre as Born and Raised, but they have also perfected it. Somewhere within the joyous melodies of the album’s second single, “Wildfire,” and the impressive cover of the late J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” Mayer has found where he is meant to be. However, unlike Born and Raised, Paradise Valley wouldn’t be anything without a few subtle ties to Mayer’s personal life.
When Taylor Swift released a track titled “Dear John” on her album, Speak Now, it quickly became clear that it was about John Mayer. Despite the fact that Mayer once told Rolling Stone that he considered the track to be “cheap songwriting,” it didn’t stop him from writing what appears to be a response. On his album’s first single, “Paper Doll,” various lyrics (“you’re like 22 girls in one”) could be referencing Swift, but they are still far subtler than her lengthy lament. While “Paper Doll” quietly references past tabloid gossip, “Who You Love” (featuring current girlfriend, Katy Perry) boldly puts Mayer’s love life on display. The track may not be the best love song on the album (“Dear Marie” takes the prize), but it still manages to be the most honest moment on Paradise Valley.
As a whole, Paradise Valley should appease fans of John Mayer the musician, John Mayer the celebrity, and even fans of Frank Ocean (the 88-second “Wildfire” is one of the album’s best tracks). Fans of the musician will respect that Mayer’s skills are more refined than ever, fans of the celebrity will appreciate it when Katy Perry giggles at the end of their song together, and fans of Frank Ocean will just be happy that he’s there at all. In an attempt to make an album that he loved himself, Mayer may have just created an album that everyone can love right along with him.
Lauren Mahaffy is a Syracuse, NY native and a recent graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in music business. As much as she would love to be in LA eating burgers at In-N-Out and working at a record label, she is currently spending some time at home with her dog, Princess Sparkle. When she is not job hunting, she can be found binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, posting funny gifs on Tumblr, and singing Miley Cyrus songs in the car. Read her embarrassing tweets @laurenmahaffy