It may not make sense to some people, but I feel as if I’ve grown up listening to John Mayer. Even though I was almost halfway through high school when his first album, “Room For Squares” came out, it still feels like the majority of my growing process included his music. I discovered him on one of those trips to Virgin Records that used to drive my mom crazy. I was one of those kids that could spend hours in there, listening to everything that was featured on their listening stations until I found something that called to me, or that I could groove to. I could flip through the racks over and over, just reading the track listings and trying to get a feel for whether or not it was something I’d want to listen to. I stumbled upon Room For Squares and it honestly became one of the few life changing musical moments of my life. Previously, I’d listened to whatever was introduced to me as a child, a little Mariah Carey (back when her music was good), some Elton John, and my mom was an avid listener of Sade. Then there was the country music from my grandmothers influence; lots of Patsy Cline, a little Johnny Cash, and bands like Fleetwood Mac. On my own I gravitated towards fun pop music that always managed to take my mind away from a lot of the the weird stuff I had to deal with as a child. Lots of Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, but then I had a weird affinity for real lyrically emotional music, sitting alone in my room listening to Jewel and Fiona Apple when I just wanted to feel understood. Though, I never really shared this music with my friends, it was my personal “these people understand me when no one else does” secret teenage angst music. John Mayer managed to float right on in to that category.
The song that made me buy his debut album was not the harrowing single (that I can’t even really listen to to this day) but the rambling, fearful, disconcerting almost last track “Not Myself.” I bought the album and, consequently, listened to this song on repeat for a really long time. It just felt like me, the me that didn’t know who I was yet, and that began my long love affair with all things John Mayer.
Not surprisingly, as we both grew up, and he created music and I discovered more music and began creating it myself, he always managed to grow with me. Each album seemed to contain a little bit more of my fears, my concerns, my intuitions about life. And while most people write him off as a vapid songwriter, or a guy who can’t shut up, and is maybe a little bit of a douche. I can’t. His music has inspired me as a songwriter, I can understand his growth from the simple singer/songwriter style to a more bluesy, country tinged, introspective full instrumentation kind of writer. I love the places he’s come and gone on all his albums, though my favorite remains the incredibly self-depricating study into relationships that is “Battle Studies.”
Why the long essay on John Mayer? Well, because he has a new song coming out that I’m actually rather excited for. While there were tracks on “Born and Raised” that absolutely spoke to me in a way that only Mayer could, I could sense that he was a little lost while he was writing it, and rightfully so. His life took a turn for the worst, and it reflected itself in the words and melodies in a way that I believe it should for a true songwriter. Lacking direction, hoping for hope, but never quite reaching the landscape that I know he’s capable of.
One listen to the clip of “Paper Doll” and I could sense his return of direction. In it’s vocal delivery alone it’s more assertive, it has a distinct point, and it carries with it a classic John Mayer sound that has only ever really strayed on his last release. “You’re like 22 girls in one, and none of them know what they’re running from, was it just too far to fall for a little paper doll.” That, right there, in the little minute long clip, was enough for me to know he still just GOT ME. He doesn’t know it, he doesn’t know me at all, but he continually writes music that seems to fit the scattered puzzle pieces of young adult life. And for that, Mayer will always remain in my top five musicians and one of my all time favorite songwriters.
Take him or leave him, John Mayer is an exceptionally talented individual, and I’m always ready to see what comes next for him. The full version of Paper Doll will be released on iTunes tomorrow, June 18th, 2013. But if you haven’t already heard the clip, check it out below:
And if you’re a Mayer fan check back in July, because I’m going to his show in Washington and will most definitely be updating with a review!