John Mayer, the celebrity, is an entertaining guy, and anyone who follows his constant barrage of Twitter updates, or witnessed his hilarious one-off VH1 special "John Mayer Has a TV Show", can attest to that. Unfortunately, John Mayer the recording artist saved very little entertainment for his latest album. Battle Studies is Mayer's fourth proper studio effort, but not since his debut has he sounded so predictable. After making a tremendous artistic leap with his last album Continuum, Mayer seems to have played it safe here, churning out a collection of songs that sound like a sidestep rather than a progression forward.
It all sounds pleasant, for sure, but there's nothing here with much bite to it, either. If lead single "Who Says" sounds a bit familiar, that's because it veers pretty close to "Stop This Train" from his previous album. And perhaps that album's scorching version of "Bold As Love" set the bar too high, but the bland re-interpretation of "Crossroads" here comes across as pointless filler. Lyrically, Mayer doesn't do much to salvage the relatively unexciting musical arrangements; self-described as a sort of "handbook" for the broken-hearted, the amount of love/war metaphors are seemingly endless, to the point where I was half-expecting a cover of "Love Is A Battlefield" as a hidden track.
Battle Studies is not necessarily a bad album...just a disappointing one. After seeing how far his career has progressed in the past few years, and the recent three-year wait between albums, I expected something a bit bolder than this.