‘Battle Studies’ leaves us blue

Vanessa Gomez

American blues/rock musician John Mayer has the “swoon factor.” With a raspy growl for a voice and a distressed, faraway glaze in his eyes, Mayer manages to attract love interests like Hollywood heavyweights Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson.

After impressing leading ladies and landing numerous guest spots on albums with music legends such as Eric Clapton and B.B. King, Mayer’s latest album “Battle Studies” may fall short in attracting anyone at all.

The fourth studio album takes on the sometimes-crushing matters of the heart, including war stories of succumbing to lust, the devastation of separation and the instability of love.

While Mayer could be branded as “Dave Matthews Light” when reviewing his initial albums, he had succeeded in evolving his acoustic guitar ballads to heavy blues jams. However, “Battle Studies” is a far departure from his blues side project, “John Mayer Trio,” and the album lacks the intensity and brutal lyrics about love Mayer brought us in “Continuum.”

Fans are left wondering where the hard-hitting vocals are, as Mayer’s crooning words remain mostly absent for the majority of the album.

Some examples of Mayer taking a step in the opposite direction include “Half of My Heart,” featuring sticky sweet blonde-de jour Taylor Swift. Bringing in young Swift to throw in some back-up lyrics definitely swings the musician’s album to the other side of the spectrum towards mainstream pop.

A solid stable of Mayer’s music is honesty in love, but bluntly defending getting high in “Who Says”? Sure, numerous musicians admit to extracurricular drug use, but when Mayer questions, “Who says I can’t get stoned.” is he alienating his anti-drug audience or merely showing he’s not a spineless male conquered by women?

“Battle Studies” doesn’t completely crash and burn, as Mayer does have a couple highlights to satisfy the post live blues “Where the Light Is” crowd.

“Heartbreak Warfare” starts off the album strong and gives us a taste of his older sounds, similar to those of “Room For Squares,” his debut album. Mayer shows us both desperation and tenacity in a failing relationship when he proclaims “I don’t care if we don’t sleep at all tonight/let’s just fix this whole thing now.”

“Assassin” tells the story of Mayer as a murderous Casanova who’s finally met his match in the game of love. Starting off soft and mysterious, this track revs up the guitar “Assassin” probably depicts the best example of raw honestly from Mayer. He claims to be in “over his head” when the women assassin sweeps him off his feet.

Mayer also gives us a sultry, sexy ballad in “Edge of Desire,” where he throws his insecurities on the line to woo his lady into bed.

Mayer’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” made available on the deluxe edition of “Battle Studies” would have rounded out the album better as Mayer takes on this haunting cover with the long soulful coos he is famous for.

Mayer may have thrown his talent into quickly creating a mainstream album, but as for the rest of his fans, (and maybe even Jennifer Aniston) we’ll be waiting for the next heart-wrenching blues album, and hoping that he can attract us back with that “swoon factor.”