By Benjamin Whitener
Staff reporter

John Mayer has an ever evolving sound. With his latest album, “Battle Studies,” he takes it to a whole new level.

Mayer hit the popular music scene in 2001 with the album “Room for Squares.” The album included “Your Body is a Wonderland,” a pop sensation that took Mayer to the top.
In 2003, Mayer released “Heavier Things” which included the track “Daughters.” This was Mayer’s first number one hit and it garnered him a Grammy for Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Male Vocals.
 
Mayer then moved to collaborate with hip-hop/rap artists Common and Kanye West. The collaborations earned praise from music mogul Jay-Z.

The John Mayer Trio was formed in 2005. With Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino, Mayer transitioned from the pop sound he had found to a rock and blues sound reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Mayer cites Vaughn as a major influence in his guitar playing. The trio opened for the Rolling Stones during a sold-out tour in 2005 and released their first studio album, “Try!”
 
While taking a break from the trio, Mayer released his third solo album in 2006 entitled “Continuum.” The album won two Grammys, one for Best Pop Album and the other for Best Pop Song with vocals for the track “Waiting on the World to Change.”
Mayer released the live concert DVD “Where the Light Is” in 2008. It featured all acoustic performances, a John Mayer Trio set and the band from “Continuum” performing songs from the album.

On Nov. 17, Mayer released “Battle Studies.” It has 11 tracks and a runtime of about 45 minutes.

The first single from “Battle Studies” is “Who Says.” With the opening line of “Who says you can’t get stoned,” the song definitely covers some controversial subject matter. It is unlikely that the song is really about getting stoned, but Mayer is could be using it to symbolize something else. It focuses more on being able to do what you want than with what you are told to do.

“Who Says” merges many of Mayer’s talents, including his guitar playing finger style, which has a sweet sound to it. His vocals combine for what is almost a guaranteed hit.
“Half of My Heart” is a ballad that Mayer performs with the help of country artist Taylor Swift. It has a combined pop/blues sound to it. The song is about feeling with half of a heart. It is a pretty basic song, no major guitar work from Mayer and nothing out of his or Swift’s vocal range. It is a good song for easy listening.

Mayer is able to show off his blues guitar skills with the song “Crossroads.” This is a cover of a cover. It was originally performed by legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson and then covered by Eric Clapton, another inspiration for Mayer. At first it sounds similar to techno with an odd sounding guitar part and a very simple drum part. It morphs into the awesome blues sound that Mayer has developed during the interludes.

Over all, “Battle Studies” is a great new direction for Mayer. It combines many different styles from pop to rock to blues. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Mayer to win a few Grammys with this album.

“Battle Studies” shows off a little bit of Mayer’s guitar playing, but none show what he can really do. This is the only down side to the album. Everything else is nothing short of John Mayer excellence.

A CD version of the album is available at johnmayer.com for $12.99. It is also available as a digital download for $11.99. “Battle Studies” also comes on vinyl which has had a popular resurgence over the last few years. The vinyl version is available for $25.99.

Benjamin Whitener is a junior majoring in digital arts. You may e-mail him at benjamin.whitener@sckans.edu.