There’s no better way of describing the Born And Raised experience than “bittersweet.” There was a grief of the loss of old John Mayer, however youthful and reckless in his personal and music decision-making. Of course we’ll miss the lovable “Daughters” and relatable “Half Of My Heart,” but there is a lot of girth and heart to be respected in John Mayer’s 2012 efforts.
“Shadow Days” enlightened audiences to a more humble and forgiving character early on, and it was clear that there was going to be a different air about the music this time around. And somehow that was okay.
When first reviewing lead single “Shadow Days,” we noted the new bluesy, sultry tone but we weren’t expecting a full-on musical pilgrimage. John Mayer has always been a lover of jazz and blues, incorporating their styles into his pop-rock tunes, but this was a huge surprise from what previous efforts Battle Studies and even Continuum produced. It was startling but somehow, not unsettling.
The reason why Mayer’s different noise was an acceptable shift in energy is because it wasn’t hard to point out the passion and and dedication that went into it. Spending time secluded in rural Montana did great things for his artistic muscle, exercising the effect of pure attentiveness on his year-long project. It paid off in a way blockbuster hit albums never can: Born And Raised is transformative and telling, flaunting adjectives few top-ten albums will ever be able to possess.
We can see that Born And Raised isn’t like most albums in other ways, too: where other albums struggle to find a center and a theme, it seems that the record’s core is in the title track. Here, “Born And Raised,” slowly yet significantly uses the effects of a soft chorus of voices along with a harmonica and bluesy guitar to tell a story of a standpoint where the singer is choosing to be honest about his past and consenting of his future. With sensibility, he sings:
I still have dreams, they’re not the same
They don’t fly as high as they used to
I saw my friend, he’s in my head
And he said, “You don’t remember me, do you?”
Then all at once it gets hard to take
It gets hard to fake what I won’t be
Cause one of these days I’ll be born and raised
And it’s such a waste to grow up lonely
It even ends in a cascade of sighs, effortlessly closing in the most centrifical force behind an album you’ll see all year. Wait around for the reprise at the end of the album. It’s amazing.
“Speak For Me” works the same way, tying in verses about letting go with the promise of a bright future but placing a spin on the words unsaid. It repeats “Someone come speak for me” regretfully.
Though a little too slow at times, there’s honor in the direction Mayer took. He may have toned it down to a great degree, but as always, his music isn’t for everyone. And that’s that.
If we have any advice for you, it’s to listen to Born And Raised alone. With such gravitational words and exceptional melodies, the album was meant to inspire change within the listener. So take advantage of its force on your own time, and allow John Mayer to work his magic on you. There’s a divine chance that you’ll find a chance to connect with his words, bitterly and yet so sweetly, at some point along the way.