John Mayer - Continuum

John Mayer
Continuum

(Columbia/Aware)

First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10

Written by John Metzger

Updated: Mon April 7, 2008, 02:15 PM CDT

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On his first three albums (Inside Out, Room for Squares, and Heavier Things), John Mayer relished his role as a teen heartthrob, but between indulging himself in a guitar godís dream of playing in a power trio on last yearís concert set Try! and his guest spots with Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King, he seemed to be indicating that change was in the air. Although his latest effort Continuum isnít quite as dramatic a shift as one might expect (or hope) it to be, he does attempt to find some semblance of middle ground among his increasingly diverse, public personas. Itís never easy, of course, for an artist to make a massive alteration in his approach, especially after achieving the level of success that Mayer has. In fact, most complacently would repeat the same formula until it became tediously dull and out of fashion. To his credit, Mayer hasnít waited for that to happen, and instead, he slowly but surely has found maturity by refining his music in ways that balance his own quest for growth, his labelís commercial aspirations, and his fansí expectations.

Throughout Continuum, Mayer vacillates between personal and political issues, and the collection largely exudes a deep, gray-hued tonality. While thereís little doubt that his lyrics remain planted firmly within the safety zone of platinum-selling, adult-oriented rock, he thankfully has rejected the overly saccharine ruminations that made songs such as Your Body Is a Wonderland and No Such Thing positively insufferable. During Waiting on the World to Change, he attempts to address, or at least to explain, the reasons why younger voters are so damn apathetic, while Slow Dancing in a Burning Room ponders, from the inside, the demise of a relationship. Elsewhere, he introspectively examines his aching heart (In Repair) and frets over his inevitable aging (Stop This Train). Yet, every time he pens a line that strikes a poetic chord, he returns to his usual array of inoffensive generalities. Habits, it seems, are hard to break, though Mayerís sincerity sells even his worst turns-of-phrase. Upon closer examination, his lyrics continue to have a tendency toward ringing hollow, but he fortunately has backed them up with arrangements that are more confident and mature.

Itís a telling sign that, tucked within Continuumís liner notes, Mayer thanks Eric Clapton by stating that he "knows I steal from him and is still cool with it." After all, the entirety of the set is steeped in a similarly stylistic blend of pop, rock, and R&B. Subtly laced with some stellar guitar accompaniments, there also is more to the collection than initially meets the eye. On Vultures, for example, Mayer effectively fuses Steely Danís Hey Nineteen with Stingís Weíll Be Together, while The Heart of Life and, to a lesser extent, Stop This Train draw from the pastoral beauty of Paul McCartneyís acoustic-laced work. Elsewhere, Waiting for the World to Change and Slow Dancing in a Burning Room are closely connected to Curtis Mayfieldís People Get Ready ó the former song also boasts a nifty nod to Marvin Gaye ó and throughout the affair, he tucks enough odes to Jimi Hendrix to make his cover of Bold As Love wholly believable.

The biggest issue with Continuum, however, is its mid-tempo pacing, and over the course of the albumís 50-minute duration, its tracks begin to form a hazily indistinct blur. Thereís a nagging suspicion that Mayer is holding something back, and his flashes of brilliance too frequently are undercut by his resistance to alienate the fans who were turned off by Try!. Yet, although Mayer doesnít always hit his mark, his aim, at least, is higher than it ever has been, thereby providing proof that all of the Grammy accolades and four-star reviews from Rolling Stone that he has received havenít gone to his head.

On April 8, 2008, Sony introduced a third edition of John Mayerís Continuum to the market. The original 12-track album, which has been certified double-platinum, was issued in September 2006. The following year it won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album, while its first single Waiting on the World to Change was recognized in the category of Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In November 2007, a two-disc deluxe version of Continuum was released, which featured six tracks that were culled from Mayerís recently completed summer tour. The latest installment of Continuum augments the original 12-track line-up with the new single Say. The Van Morrison-influenced song may be a tad lightweight, but like most of Mayerís material, it also is incredibly infectious. starstarstar Ĺ

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49th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
Waiting on the World to Change

49th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Pop Vocal Album

51st Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
Say

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Continuum is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2006, 2008 The Music Box