John Mayer - Born and Raised
Despite being a pretty big deal in the US, singer/songwriter John Mayer hasn't got a huge profile here in the UK; and, beyond his core fans in the country, he's known most of all for being one of Jennifer Aniston's post-Brad beaus and for saying pretty douchey things on Twitter. Since 2001's debut Room for Squares, which housed the smooth, amiable pop of Grammy-winning 'Your Body is a Wonderland', Mayer has won a few more Grammys and built a reputation for his soft rock acoustic style - and his handsome looks surely explain why his concerts are attended by a large female fanbase.
Born and Raised is his fifth studio long-player and, frankly, it needed to raise the game quite a bit more. His voice is still pleasant, but still not quite husky or grizzled enough to really get behind the more stripped-back, soul-inflected folk he peddles here. The 70s-tinged 'Queen of California' sets the tone well and subtle but interesting instrumentation on the likes of 'The Age of Worry' and the title track mean these mid-tempo ballads stand out somewhat amidst their less fortunate - and often whiny - cousins. Radio (and Jack Johnson fans) will love the slouched soul of 'Love is a Verb' and shuffling 'Something Like Olivia' but sadly there is no real second- or third-play appeal here. When a song entitled 'Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey' isn't the drinking knees-up you want it to be, but rather a lifeless, hungover drip of a song, it's time to recognise that the only way he'll break the UK this year is if he gets another A-list girlfriend. Still, it will probably win a shitload of Grammys.