The multiple Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter is keeping the Americana influence on his sixth studio album and showing a new streak of positivity
JOHN MAYER/ PARADISE VALLEY
Since his 2001 debut Room for Squares, John Mayer had been on an impressive winning streak. His subsequent albums Heavier Things, Continuum and Battle Studies all received critical acclaim and commercial success, and collectively earned him seven Grammy Awards. Then things started to spiral downwards for Mayer, caused in part by media backlash over his inflammatory Playboy interview in 2010. Adding to the pressure was having every detail of his romantic interests with Hollywood A-listers (Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift, to name but a few) scrutinised by tabloids, as well as a throat condition which led to a series of surgeries that rendered him literally speechless for months.
When the storm finally passed, Mayer came out with Born and Raised, a fifth studio outing that left the majority of his fans surprised with its distinct country/Americana sound. The album, however, performed exceptionally well in the Billboard charts. Still influenced by legendary folk-rock artists such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Mayer's latest, Paradise Valley, offers more of the Americana twang and rollicking bluesy/country sound that would have sounded so uncharacteristically out of place in his early musical repertoire.
The album's first three singles Paper Doll, Wildfire and On The Way Home show what Paradise Valley is all about: calm and composed and at times gliding and gorgeous. Paper Doll may be aimed at Mayer ex Taylor Swift, but it's never malicious or mean-spirited. There's also a sense of nostalgia on the mellow track Dear Marie, where he asks his childhood sweetheart "Remember me, I'm the boy you used to love when we were 15/Now I wonder what you think when you see me on the magazine," accompanied by a wistful harmonica.
Elsewhere there's a respectable cover of JJ Cale's Call Me The Breeze, whose lyrics perfectly sum up where Mayer is spiritually ("Ain't no change in the weather/Ain't no change in me/I ain't hidin' from nobody/Nobody's hidin' from me") and a cautionary country tale You're No One 'til Someone Lets You Down.
Paradise Valley's standouts, however, are the life-affirming I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea), the Frank Ocean-assisted Wildfire and Who You Love, a duet with Mayer's rekindled old flame Katy Perry.
Unlike previous albums that are often mired in heart-wrenching melancholy, Paradise Valley offers a slice of optimism that's refreshing to hear. Mayer still touches upon past loves and heartache, but in a delightfully lighthearted way. With its title derived from a river valley in Montana, the record makes us feel like there's wind blowing in our hair, instilling a sense of freedom and reassurance that everything is going to be all right.
The Classic/ Talodpai
Following their energetic first single Wing Su Fud, local indie outfit the Classic shake things up a bit and follow up with something a little more emotional with a rock ballad called Talodpai (For Eternity). Penned by frontman Ped, the song tells the story of a lost love, and regardless of time, that love will always be for eternity: "This love cannot be forgotten/Seasons may change/It will stay the same, everyday and always." Details of the group's album are still scarce, but we hope they will come out with one soon.
The Detroit rapper releases his latest single, Survival, to accompany the trailer for the video game Call of Duty: Ghost, and to signal the arrival of his forthcoming eighth LP. Featuring vocalist Liz Rodrigues, the track sees Slim Shady going hard and fast at it, assuring us that "it ain't over 'til I say it's over" and that he's "back again with another anthem". Fittingly, the guitars and drums are cranked up to the maximum to match Mathers' heady rhyming skills. The yet-to-be-titled record is said to feature his long-time mentor Dr Dre and fellow rapper 50 Cent.
Volcano Choir/ Comrade
Besides Bon Iver, the uber talented singer-songwriter Justin Vernon is also a driving force behind numerous side projects such as Gayngs, Tiny Creatures, the Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir. Fresh from his recent collaboration with Kanye West, Vernon, alongside Collections of Colonies of Bees, are gearing up to release Repave, Volcano Choir's second studio album. Its second single, Comrade, sparkles with lilting guitar and surging piano lines paired with Vernon's lush falsetto. Simply breathtaking.
Lady Gaga/ Applause
The most outrageous pop culture icon of this century is back with a hugely anticipated new single Applause, taken from her much hyped upcoming third studio album, ARTPOP. The synthpop jam is a no-nonsense club banger that immediately reminds us of Madonna's album MDNA. There are plenty of glossy synths to be had as Gaga announces that she lives "for the applause" and goes on to (try to) explain that: "Pop culture was in art/Now art's in pop culture in me!" Despite her admirable attempt to make pop music profound, the song is a run-of-the-mill dance jam that doesn't quite convince us of her intended "artpop" aesthetics.
Katy Perry/ Roar
While Lady Gaga's new single comes off as trying too hard, Katy Perry's Roar delivers exactly what it says on the tin. "I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire", K-Pez belts out during the rip-roaring chorus accompanied merely by a simple bassline and drum beat. Her intention here is clear _ she can no longer be held down or silenced. The fact that it's so unabashedly radio-friendly with empowering lyrics makes the song endearingly relatable. It will be interesting to hear what the rest of both Gaga's and Perry's albums have to offer. Let the duel of the pop divas begin!
About the author
- Writer: Chanun Poomsawai