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Album review: New musical style not for John Mayer in ‘Paradise Valley’

4171294837After his retreat to Montana and revival album “Born and Raised” in 2012, John Mayer left audiences anxiously awaiting his next career move.

His last album presented a different sound than Mayer’s trademark emotional ballads. “Born and Raised” had a country influence — no doubt due to his new Montana lifestyle — and provided refreshingly honest lyrics after Mayer saddened the world with his arrogant rock star attitude, spelled out in ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift’s 2010 track “Dear John.”

This new album and Mayer’s recent tour will hopefully show his fans the glory days are not behind him, but evolution isn’t a topic the world always agrees on.

“Paradise Valley,” which released Tuesday, opens with “Wildfire,” a peppy, foot-stomping track about a boy and girl falling in love. It’s the type of song that is purchased and put on repeat for a week straight. The track has a bouncy melody, optimistic lyrics and a tambourine — sounds like victory.

“Call Me the Breeze” is another upbeat track with a hint of the blues and a glimpse of the guitar skills we want to see from Mayer.

The album peaks there. As the album progresses, the songs get more mellow and increasingly uninteresting.

Mayer’s attempt to channel a little Americana is commendable but the Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson persona just doesn’t work for him. “Paradise Valley” reflects Mayer’s recent evolution as an artist and an individual, but it is too peaceful. For a man who’s gone through a break up and started a new relationship, the lyrics on this album are cliché and leave us wondering where the articulate, creative John went. Maybe it’s a part of his new image, but Mayer’s choice to play it safe will only please his PR team.

The album has guest appearances from Mayer’s latest love interest Katy Perry (“Who You Love”) and singer-songwriter Frank Ocean (a second song named “Wildfire”). Even with such an interesting arrangement of people, the album falls flat. The melodies are nice and soothing, but as a whole, “Paradise Valley” leaves something to be desired.

Grade: C+

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