John Mayer, “Paradise Valley” (Columbia Records)
Even those of us who have yet to date and break up with John Mayer may find “Paradise Valley” unlikeable. Kids are apt to spend some time with the hummable tunes before moving on to more fulfilling relationships.
Predictably, Mayer’s in love-’em-and-leave-’em mode. “Sure was fun being good to you,” he sings. And, “I was made to chase the storm.” And, “Some nights I throw it all away.” On “Who You Love,” Katy Perry weighs in, singing, “Some have said his heart’s too hard to hold.”
Best is the summery “Waiting On the Day,” which layers lovely vocal harmonies over a reggae pulse, and “Paper Doll,” a gentle shuffle with darting guitars. Elsewhere the songs are slow and slower fizz and froth, and there’s nothing here to make us think, laugh or understand Mayer better. The serial celebrity romancer’s not leaving any blood on these tracks, which is a missed opportunity because a lot of words rhyme with “Taylor.”
Don Was co-produced Mayer’s sixth effort, which makes the hodgepodge arrangements a surprising disappointment. There’s a bit of flute here, some pedal steel there, and a tiki-bar mood that neuters Mayer’s guitar playing, usually his strong suit. On the most bluesy song, the JJ Cale-esque “Call Me the Breeze,” Mayer’s solo is just building steam when it’s oddly interrupted mid-verse.
Mayer can still write a pretty melody and his singing’s fine following treatment on his vocal cords. But nearly half of the songs include wordless vocals, probably because on “Paradise Valley” Mayer doesn’t have much to say.