John Mayer: Sugar-Coated Popstar Or Blues Craftsman?

John Mayer

When John Mayer made his breakthrough in 2002 with the release of Room For Squares, his acoustic-pop masterpiece spawned hit after hit (No Such Thing, Why Georgia & Your Body Is A Wonderland) that propelled him into the celebrity stratosphere and made him a heart-throb for the pre-teen masses.

Your Body Is A Wonderland

When Mayer decided he was sick of being looked down on, his peers seeing him as nothing more than a popstar, he began to branch out into other genres, and a transformation began.

Collaborations with Kanye West and Common hinted at a move into a more hip-hop influenced sound, and this seemed all the more likely when Mayer was endorsed by rap legends such as Jay-Z and Nelly, but he instead slipped into a different skin, and in the summer of 2005, he began jamming with various blues legends, including Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and toured with pianist Herbie Hancock.

Inspired by his new-found love for the blues, Mayer formed the John Mayer Trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, and they began a North American tour, including a stint opening for The Rolling Stones. Such were the rave reviews that greeted them wherever they went, the Trio released a live album, Try! that showcased their mix of blues and rock, featuring strung out jams and wild soloing, and built a new persona for Mayer: The Guitar God.

With the release of 2006’s Continuum, Mayer did not dissapoint his new fans, with a mix of his old pop sensibilities with bluesy jams, showcased perfectly on lead-off single Waiting On The World To Change, as well as slow-jam Gravity & funked up Vultures, which both featured on Try! Mayer also played up to his recently accquired status as a leader of a new generation of leading guitarists, including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Bold As Love

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

Several glowing reviews and a Rolling Stone cover later, and the tide is slowly beginning to turn in favour of the new Mayer, but some still hold Wonderland over him, and bemoan his celebrity status – He has dated several A-listers, including Jessica Simpson (a cardinal sin in the eyes of some), blogs frequently, and is often seen to pursue publicity (last week he released a short comedy video in which he parodied himself as an egotistical rockstar, last month he performed a short solo set on a cruise ship dressed in a Borat-esque thong).

But if you are prepared to look beyond all the bullshit, and leave the past in the past, the growth of John Mayer as a musician is something that cannot be denied, and his live performances only hint at progression of his new-found status as a Blues Craftsman.

Pre-Order: Where The Light Is, A CD/DVD release of his benefit show at LA’s Nokia Theater last December, which included a solo acoustic set, a Trio performance, and a closing set with his full Continuum touring band, directed by the excellent Danny Clinch, who in the last year has brought us the beautifully shot Skin & Bones by the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam’s Immagine In Cornice.

Purchase: John Mayer – Continuum

Catch Mayer Live: Tour Dates

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

Feedback: What did you think of the article? Did you agree with what was said, or do you take a different view? What are your impressions of John Mayer? Leave a comment and share your views…


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I quite liked the article. I have always thought of John Mayer as an uninteresting popguy who wrote and played generic pop. Then I read this article and sought to check out the John Mayer Trio album. I then went on a weeks vacation in Greece where the Try! album got heavy rotation on my ipod. And I must say that it is a really good album. The musicianship is superb and the feel of the album is surprisingly gritty (given what I expected). The songs, with a couple of exceptions, are also very good.

All in all I must say that my opinion about John Mayer have changed after reading this article (and listening to the album of course). And I like that. It is nice to be surprised. It is nice when ones preconceptions are refuted. And it is nice to discover and enjoy new music.

Comment by Simen

John Mayer has always been a blues player. his biggest influences when he started were guys like Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and ESPECIALLY SRV. For God’s sake, he has SRV tattoo’d on his shoulder. So I don’t agree with the article saying that he transformed, he merely used his pop stuff to break into the industry.

Comment by Adam

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