Battle Studies The John Mayer mirror has, as it were, two faces: the faultlessly earnest, furrow-browed blues-pop crooner of record, and the starlet- devouring, Twitter-baiting jokester who… Battle Studies The John Mayer mirror has, as it were, two faces: the faultlessly earnest, furrow-browed blues-pop crooner of record, and the starlet- devouring, Twitter-baiting jokester who… 2009-11-17 John Mayer Rock
Music Review

Battle Studies (2009)

John Mayer, Battle Studies | BATTLE WITHIN John Mayer's softer side once again wins on his latest
Image credit: Richard Phibbs/Corbis Outline
BATTLE WITHIN John Mayer's softer side once again wins on his latest
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Release Date: Nov 17, 2009; Lead Performance: John Mayer; Genre: Rock

The John Mayer mirror has, as it were, two faces: the faultlessly earnest, furrow-browed blues-pop crooner of record, and the starlet-
devouring, Twitter-baiting jokester who would, one imagines, love nothing more than to give guys like Earnest John a big fat wedgie. In a way, it's too bad that he doesn't. Battle Studies is, for the most part, status quo Mayeromics — an expertly calibrated study in soft-pedal confessions, searching lyricism, and mildly groovy guitar licks.

Sure, he tries on some different sonic suits — the shimmering Joshua Tree-era U2 facsimile ''Heartbreak Warfare''; a largely redundant cover of the Cream–via–Robert Johnson blues classic ''Crossroads'' — and comes gratifyingly to life on the swooning blue-eyed-soul lullaby ''All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye.'' (Taylor Swift, the album's sole guest, provides a sort of flash cameo on pleasant-enough back-porch balm ''Half of My Heart.'')

A rare dose of his jackassy humor crops up, to welcome effect, on first single ''Who Says,'' a blithe and-this-bird-you-cannot-change ode to women, weed, and on-the-road freedom: ''Who says I can't get stoned/Call up a 
 girl that I used to know/Fake love for an hour or so.'' Elsewhere, love is lyrically, repeatedly, a battlefield (''Heartbreak Warfare,'' 
 ''Assassin,'' ''War of My Life''), but musically, it doesn't feel quite as urgent.

Mostly, he noodles amiably toward Studies' conclusion, apparently content to stay within the confines of the Dave Matthews/ Jason Mraz (and yes, John Mayer) sensitive-dude rock template. In this Battle, it seems, one side never really stood a chance. B-

Download This: Listen to the song Heartbreak Warfare at imeem.com

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Originally posted Nov 11, 2009 Published in issue #1076 Nov 20, 2009 Order article reprints
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