23 May 2012

Born & Raised: A Non-Review Revisited

I mentioned in yesterdays post that I had something entirely different written but couldn't bring myself to post it. 

But after receiving a few requests to read what I had originally wrote and after rolling the idea of posting it around in my head, I've decided to just go for.

Here's the deal......it's not entirely about Mayer's new album. I mean it is, but it isn't.

Music is one of the most important things in my world. When it comes to music I am bitchy. Catty. Judgmental. Opinionated. Obsessive. Passionate.

I can't play an instrument (well) to save my life. I sing out of tune. And will never be a musician.

But I love it. It feeds my soul. It lifts me up when I am down. It brings me tears when I can't shed them on my own. It provides the soundtrack to my life. It's a part of who I am and no matter how crazy I sound when I talk about it, for better or for worse it helps to define who I am.

So there is your disclaimer. Proceed at your own risk I suppose.
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I absolutely adore Born and Raised but I don't feel like it's an album for the masses.

One of my biggest frustrations with the music industry is that there is no (little) room for experimentation. Once you have a hit, that's it! That's your role. You churn out what helped you succeed and heaven help you if you try to grow as an artist or try sometime new. The music industry doesn't have time for new or innovative. We are consumers seeking instant gratification and are onto the next best thing before an artist is able to establish their roots (i.e. a fan base). I know this doesn't apply to every musician, band, performer, but seriously--turn on the radio and tell me how many established artists are in rotation. 

Leading up to today, I avoided all reviews, press, reviews, interviews and even discussions with friends about the album. I didn't want my first listen to be clouded by what anyone else thought of the album or what anyone thought of his intentions or motivations for the songs. I didn't want to read how this album may or may not be like his previous releases or that he was channeling his inner Bob Dylan or that the sappy love songs (i.e. Your Body Is A Wonderlandish song) were missing or whatever.  I just wanted to experience the album in my own space on my own terms. 

It seems like an odd choice, but my first listen to the album was during my morning run but for me, it was the perfect environment--just me, the music and an open road and not a single distraction in sight. Perfection.

Of all his albums, this one is the most honest. The most introspective album yet--gone (or at least seems to be gone) are the songs/lyrics of an angry/frustrated young man trying to fight his way through a (love) life where the rules are constantly changing with the tides of public opinion. There is a maturity in not only the lyrics but also musically.

On the surface though, none of that really comes through. It doesn't sound like "Mayer". It doesn't sound or feel like any of his previous albums. This is album you have to digest. You need to listen to the words, to what he is really saying for it to sink in. It's raw and simplistic in the most complicated of ways. This album showcases his talents as a songwriter. As a storyteller.  It's absolutely amazing.

The Age of Worry literally stopped my in my tracks. Besides feeling a little bit an anthem, it  was like a punch to the gut. A reminder that sometimes you're stronger than you give yourself credit for and that this life is your own. You have to find peace within yourself for yourself. No one else (nothing else) is going to do that for you. 

That feeling stayed with me through the whole album. 

Born & Raised, the title track from the album brought me to tears--this, unlike any other song (for me at least) seemed to put Mayer's life into perspective and I don't know that I've ever recover from that. Walter Grace's Submarine Test: January 1967 reminded me of my favorite poem by William Carlos Williams and absolutely broke my heart. Speak For Me kind of sums up in three minutes and forty-five seconds how I feel about the music industry and made me giggle. Sometime Like Olivia made me smile because I think we are all in one way or another searching for our own version of Olivia.


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