John Mayer’s Battle Studies: The Newest Installment from the Half-Jewish, Tattoo-Sleeved Guitar God

There are certain male musicians who while they seemingly have a unisex audience, it’s mainly women who are openly proud fans. Key examples: Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

Then there are those male musicians who seemingly have a feminine audience, yet they also earn the genuine respect of men who recognize their talent despite their charm. Key examples: Michael Buble and Jason Mraz. But the epitome of this category is none other than the 6’ 3”, tattoo-sleeved, half-Jewish, Connecticut native, John Mayer.

His most romantic songs are typically my least favorite- “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Come Back to Bed”. What draws me most to his music is a quality found in his lesser hits like “83” and “Something’s Missing”. Half nostalgic, half philosophical.

In reviewing any genre of entertainment, I can’t say any one thing is the best. I can only say what is my personal favorite. Because my favorite is simply an opinion; I am not qualified to declare what is best- that would go beyond a matter of opinion.

That being said, my favorite John Mayer album is his 2003 Heavier Things. It features the hits “Bigger than My Body”, “Daughters”, and “Clarity” (“ah whoo-ew… ah whoo-ew”). Along with its less featured songs “New Deep”, “Home Life”, “Split Screen Sadness” and “Wheel”.

The cover of this album itself perfectly captures the style and direction of the music. It represents a simple sense of timelessness, yet at the same time somehow reminds of me of Eric Clapton and/or Sting between 1988 and 1993.

I say that to say this. John Mayer’s newest album, Battle Studies, is a hybrid of two of my favorite things of his: 1) The album Heavier Things and 2) his very much underappreciated song “I Don’t Trust Myself with Loving You” from his 2006 album Continuum.

Very bluesy: “Fell down on my knees, asked the Lord for mercy, said ‘help me if you please’” (“Crossroads”).

Very jazzy: “Who says I can’t get stoned?” (“Who Says”)

Very soft rock: “I’ve got a hammer and a heart of glass- I gotta know right now which walls to smash” (War of My Life).

I decided half-way through this decade that John Mayer is incapable of releasing an album that isn’t good. I stand by that. Battle Studies is completely up to par with all his other recordings. But just like how Dave Matthews Band will never be able to top their Crash album, in my mind John Mayer will never be able to top Heavier Things.

Actually I see Battle Studies as a direct sequel (yet not necessarily a continuation) of Heavier Things. So in other words, I love it.

A year ago I posted a review of my favorite albums of 2008, and in a prophetic moment, I praised the then unknown song “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington. A few months later it was released as a single and went to #1.

Therefore, I will predict the soon-to-be hits from Battle Studies. The most obvious is the industrial-infused groovy tune “Assassins”. John has never sounded more like an African-American lead singer of an alternative rock band than he does in this song. Maybe it’s because this song has so many Michael Jackson qualities about it.

Like it was written with “Smooth Criminal”, “Dirty Diana” and “Give in to Me” in mind: “I work in the dead of night when the roads are quiet and no one is around… I’m an assassin and I had a job to do… Little did I know that girl was an assassin too.”

Another song destined to be a radio favorite is “Half of My Heart”. Perfect catchy melody. Perfect opening line: “I was born in the arms of imaginary friends.” Perfect choice of a female vocalist to do a song with: Taylor Swift.

The only downfall is that there’s not enough Taylor Swift in this song. She just does background vocals towards the end. Every time I hear it, I keep hoping the song has magically changed since the last time I heard it and that the song has become a true duet like the immaculately crafted “Lucky I’m in Love” by Jason Mraz with Colbie Caillat. Great song though: “Half of my heart is a shotgun wedding to a bride with a paper ring.”

Often when a musician or actor becomes a superstar, showing up in the tabloid magazines, the authenticity of their art suffers. Despite dating Jennifer Anniston and Jessica Simpson (to name a few) , his art hasn’t suffered (just his personal reputation). He’s still got the talent. Just as much as ever. Going beyond the rut of “the same three chords” compositions and “I miss you baby” lyrics.

And not that this takes away from his music at all, but this lifestyle definitely shows up in his song content. Like in “Perfectly Lonely”- “Had a little love but I spread it thin. Falling in her arms and out again. Made a bad name for my game ‘round town.” It’s also evident in the future hit which will inevitably be featured on several romantic comedy soundtracks, “Heartbreak Warfare”.

Gone is the charming, mysterious John Mayer from the beginning of the decade. Gone is the gentleman. Apathy and aimlessness are starting to show up in his attitude and lyrics. I don’t like his music any less because of it. But I do recognize the change.

Though this may actually be hurting him with his current single, “Who Says”, which is his lowest charting single, breaking his string of 5 consecutive Top 10 singles. This song much departs from his former classy charm, containing lyrics like this: “Call up a girl I used to know, fake love for an hour or so” and “I don’t remember you looking any better. Then again I don’t remember you”.

Not to mention the song’s constant references to marijuana use.

John Mayer is suffering from what I call “King Solomon Syndrome”. King Solomon had it all: Extreme wealth, fame, and wisdom. And 700 wives. And 300 concubines. But by the end of his life when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he said it was all meaningless. None of it made him happy.

At least at an early age, John Mayer recognizes something’s missing.

Related Post by the Same Author:

John Mayer’s Stupid Mouth  http://wp.me/pxqBU-wz

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

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Christianity and Beer

Would Jesus drink beer?  Maybe the question is, did He?

Ironically, in the way that many Christians view alcohol consumption to be okay when in moderation, I feel the same way about other beverages- ones that contain no alcohol. A typical can of soda (or tall glass of sweet tea) consists of about 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar, not to mention the caffeine. Would I normally eat 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar in one sitting? No way, that’s disgusting and totally unhealthy. Sugar is at the very top of the food pyramid and should be used sparingly. But that’s what soda is. And it’s so common. No “sin associations” either.

But it is extremely difficult for my conscience to deal with the thought that if the body is a temple, how consuming that much sugar all in the name of a common beverage is justifiable, especially compared to a single serving of beer or wine. Last night I drank two glasses of Dr. Pepper with some friends. And today I actually am a little ashamed that I did it.

And that is the power of taboo and its attached guilt. I feel bad about drinking soda, while someone else may feel halfway guilty about drinking some wine at a wedding. One person may be offended by me drinking a 12 ounce bottle of Blue Moon beer, but I may be offended by seeing someone drinking a liter sized bottle of Mountain Dew.

Both can be abused. Beer can cause drunkenness and alcoholism when handled irresponsibly (causing harm to self and others, possible to strangers). Drunkenness is an immediate warning that too much has been consumed. Sugary drinks do not cause drunkenness (but can also cause harm to self and others, through second hand poor dieting habits). Since no drunkenness is involved with sugary drinks, they have no immediate way to warn a person of the unhealthy dangers they can do to the human body when consumed too regularly.

I believe laws for drunk driving should be much stricter than they are. I disapprove of drunk driving as much as I loathe careless drivers and drivers that eat and/or text while driving. As much as I loathe murderers and perverts of every kind. Ultimately beer is one of those things like sex and money- wonderful, yet so easily can by used to corrupt, when mishandled.

Diet sodas, I don’t trust ’em. After learning that my parents pour a little bit of Sweet’n Low onto ant beds in their yard, which within a few days kills off the whole colony, I figure artificial sweeteners are left better off as a pesticide. The tiny ants’ bodies can’t handle the unnatural ingredients in the artificial sweeteners. Maybe my 5’ 9”, 170 pound body can, but it’s just not a drug I am willing to experiment with.

Juice that is actually 100% natural (no added sugars or dyes) is bearable, but also has a high content of sugar. So if I do drink 8 ounce servings of juice, I realize that I have to consider the sugar content just as I would a normal beverage.  That is equal to a few tablespoons of sugar.  But if the fruit is eaten in its whole form, the fiber of the fruit itself absorbs the sugar so that it does not count as our actual sugar intake for the day.

So for me, I’m not left with many drink choices or dinner. I do drink a minimum on 3 liters of water throughout the day. But in addition to water with my evening meal, I often have a bottle of good beer (not anything cheap that can be easily found in a can, not anything with the word “lite” in its name, not anything that is advertised through funny commercials during the Super Bowl).

I can enjoy the simple formula of the drink that has been enjoyed since Biblical times (it was brought to America by the Christian Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock). Water, barley, yeast, and hops (from the small family of flowering plants called Cannabaceae, in which cannabis is also a member). Beer contains no fat or cholesterol. Studies show then when consumed regularly in repsonsible amounts, beer can help the body fight against stroke, heart attacks, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, to name a few benefits. When it’s consumed responsibly, it’s healthy and good. When it’s abused, it’s unhealthy and dangerous. Too much of anything usually isn’t a good thing anyway.

So did Jesus drink beer?  It’s obvious He drank wine.  Beer has been around since at least 9,000 B.C.  and was discovered/invented in Egypt, so I’m sure He had easy access.  Since it wasn’t taboo for His culture to responsibly drink alcohol, I would actually be surprised if Jesus didn’t drink beer.  But again, wine has a high alcohol content than beer anyway.  Choose your irony.