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Review

John Mayer remains strong with somber lyrics

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December 11, 2009

John Mayer’s newest album, “Battle Studies,” is chock-full of heartbreak. It’s obvious the artist has been going through relationship issues since “Continuum,” which featured songs mostly about the luster of love. Mayer uses his newest compilation as a canvas for painting a vivid picture of his trivial love life. He has never had much luck in this category, and often romanticized lyrics without the real-life experience.

From Jessica Simpson to Jennifer Aniston, listeners can’t help but feel for the musician who has been deemed a womanizer in tabloid fodder in recent years.

“Battle Studies” has the ability to make even the happiest person feel at least a little heartache, with lyrics like: “Your faith is strong, but I can only fall short for so long / down the road, later on / you will hate that I never gave more to you / than half of my heart,” from “Half of My Heart,” which features the Country Music Awards Performer of the Year, Taylor Swift.

“Battle Studies” kicks off with “Heartbreak Warfare.” With a self-explanatory title, this tune is all about the struggle that ensues when two lovers quarrel. It seems that this song is about Aniston when Mayer sings, “Drop his name / push it in and twist the knife again / watch my face as I pretend to feel no pain,” perhaps pointing to Aniston’s former marriage to box office heartthrob Brad Pitt.

Next, Mayer’s “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye,” punches at listeners’ heartstrings with its slow-tempered melody and heart-wrenching lyrics like, “Why you wanna break my heart again / why am I gonna let you try?” Again, the title is suggestive.

Now we click on to “Half of My Heart.” Faster-paced with a catchy rhythm that complements Mayer’s heartfelt vocals, this track sounds like something you’ll be hearing on the Top 40 in the coming months.

“Who Says” is Mayer’s most recent single, and it’s already hitting the airwaves. This jam expresses Mayer’s rebellious side, while also giving listeners an idea of the long hours and travel his line of work requires. Just one line from this one will give you an idea of the whole work: “Who says I can’t get stoned / plan a trip to Japan alone / doesn’t matter if I even go / who says I can’t stoned?”

“Assassin” continues Mayer’s insight into what it’s like to be him and to do his work. He writes that he works in the dead of night when no one else is around. Mayer is falling in love with someone, perhaps Aniston again, and suggesting he should have avoided it before it ever started by running like Usain Bolt for the door “before the sun came up.” Mayer continues, “I was an assassin and I had a job to do / little did I know that girl was an assassin, too,” implying he thought it was his job to be the heartbreaker.

The one cover Mayer put on his newest album is “Crossroads,” a Robert Johnson cover that gives the album some extra oomph. With a punchy electronic background beat (the bass line from the Cream version) and bluesy guitar solos, this song is a welcome distraction from the heartache that seems to fill the other tracks. Though it’s not really a light-hearted song, its energy gives a similar effect to comic relief in a horror flick. It’s similar to the Cream version, which was re-vamped in the 1960s.

Good thing “Crossroads” is on the album, or even the truest fans might call it quits before it’s done playing its course. “War of My Life” is another downer. “All the suffering and all the pain / never left a name / Oh, I’m in the war of my life / at the door of my life / out of time and there’s nowhere to run.”

“Edge of Desire” shows the tender side of Mayer, with lyrics like, “I want you so bad / I go back on the things I believe / There, I just said it / I’m scared you’ll forget about me.” This song explores Mayer’s desire to find true love despite his relationship shortcomings.

“Do You Know Me” is slow and steady. It questions a relationship, asking if the significant other or former significant other knows Mayer, or if he was wrong about her.

“Friends, Lovers or Nothing” is another title that gives away a good deal of the song’s content. It’s all about what happens to a relationship when the romance dies and you’re questioning whether to change phone numbers or to stay friends.

All things considered, Mayer’s “Battle Studies” touches on the issues listeners relate to, while maintaining exceptional musicality. If you’re not too sure about the album because of its possibly depressing nature, you should know that it might help you discover the heart you didn’t know you had.

Alayne Hockman is a student at UW-River Falls.