Verdict: 3 / 5
Paradise Valley is named after a river valley in John Mayer’s current home town of Montana. This is an official/unofficial roots album for Mayer who stated during a number of interviews that he is “done with the whole pop thing”. He is tired of it and he wants to make the music that he wants to make. In a similar fashion with Jack Johnsons’ last album, where he moved back home to Hawaii and recorded the entire album in his home studio, Mayer bought a house and moved to Montana shortly after his throat surgery during his Born and Raised album release. Although he still recorded the album in popular LA studios, you can tell that every bit of inspiration and influence is coming from being in ‘Big Sky Country’ Montana.
The country folk departure isn’t a sudden one, he has slowly moved from pop to blues rock to adult contemporary and now arrived at country. He has stated that he likes doing the pop and contemporary stuff because it gets people to notice him, and gives him the audience to play the music he really wants to play, which at the time was blues rock. It seems he has moved on since and is tired of the BS and politics.
In June he released the single ‘Paperdoll’ which is seen as a retaliation to Taylor Swifts’ ‘Dear John’, a song about their relationship and break up. No surprise there. He sang a duet with Swift in his previous album, and in the same fashion of duets with his partners, he sang a duet on this album with Katy Perry, his on again and off again girlfriend. The song is titled ‘Who You Love’.
The rest of the album is a medley of acoustic guitar, with other raw instruments filling in the spaces in between. Lately he has given a lot more time to instrumentals and give more free space to play with. This means there are a lot quieter guitar solos and riffing than before, which is quite pleasant. The dynamic and tone of the album can best be described in his track titled “Dear Marie”. It starts slow with a gradual build towards the end, with plenty of room for elevator music for you to keep in the background of your living room.
In 2012 he went on Saturday Night Live to play guitar with the musical guest Frank Ocean. That bromance has resulted in Frank Ocean appearing on this album on the track ‘Wildfire’ – not to be confused with the first track on the album, also titled ‘Wildfire’ – I guess creativity was running low within the marketing department that day. Ocean sings with a gentle piano and a melodic harmony with Mayer. This is definitely one of the more interesting tracks on the album.
While this album proves that John Mayer is evolving, sometimes we prefer the less evolved version. There’s a reason why Ash never evolved Pikachu into Raichu. Because Pikachu is way cooler, at least from my point of view. I am an avid John Mayer fanboy and I don’t particularly like the route which he is taking with his music. But if this is what he really wants to do, then… good for you John, good for you.