After recovering from a voice-threatening vocal cord surgery, John Mayer is back with his sixth full-length studio album, Paradise Valley. Having moved to Montana at the beginning of the year, the laid-back country lifestyle of Mayer’s new life is reflected in the style of his most recent album. Mayer’s tracks are lined with twang and folk-rock sounds. However, the mellow mood of Paradise Valley seems a bit too laid-back and might put listeners to sleep.
Paradise Valley opens with the track “Wildfire.” It’s a strong start to the album. Beginning with catchy chords, the song quickly shifts to repetitive beats and lyrics. Many of Mayer’s tracks ultimately end up sounding similar to one another, which leaves the listener feeling somewhat disappointed.
Mayer, however, does add some interesting and different sounding tracks to Paradise Valley. In particular, many listeners hear “Paper Doll,” as the follow up track to ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift’s song “Dear John.” Lyrics such as “You’re like 22 girls in one / And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from” and “Fold a scarf, Moroccan red / And tie your hair behind your head” clearly reference Swift’s song “22″ as well as red, the color she is most known to be associated with.
Paradise Valley brings in the vocals of John Mayer’s current girlfriend Katy Perry on the track “Who You Love.” The slower love ballad has a solid drumbeat with fresh guitar riffs added throughout. The vocals, on the other hand, seem to be lacking. Perry adds a refreshing sound and lyrics concerning the couple’s love: “And some have said his heart’s too hot to hold.” This intertwines with Mayer’s over-repetitive chorus of “It’s who you love / Who you love.” Compared to the rest of Paradise Valley, “Who You Love” takes a step back from the Western-folk sound and brings back a side to John Mayer many may be used to based on previous albums.
Frank Ocean also chimes in on Paradise Valley with “Wildfire (Interlude),” bringing a solid minute and 26 seconds of change. The combination of Mayer and Ocean’s voices adds a unique break late in the album so that listeners won’t forget they are, in fact, hearing different songs. The lyrics behind “Wildfire (Interlude)” give diversity to the rest of Mayer’s lyrics: “Back in Paris you told me you were suicidal / It’s not a vacation if I lose you to the Eiffel.”
Paradise Valley includes 11 of Mayer’s newest tracks packed into 40 minutes. While many of the tracks include more of a Western vibe than Mayer’s five previous albums, his mellowness and down-to-earth voice is similar to Bob Dylan. The journey through Paradise Valley proves to be a smooth ride for any new or old Mayer fan.
3 out of 5 stars