John Mayer performs. Wikipedia

John Mayer begins his next tour, The Search for Everything, on March 31. To build the hype, the singer-songwriter has been releasing EP tracks four at a time until he will finally release his 14-track album this spring.

It’s not really cool to like John Mayer, but we shamefaced fans are dying of excitement. Quietly, and to ourselves.

It doesn’t take much research on the web to find out why people keep their appreciation on the DL. The guy’s a tool with a filthy mouth and a massive ego. In his recent interview with Rolling Stone (“The Dirty Mind and Lonely Heart of John Mayer”), he reveals his perspective on his life of fame. The article is so grossly offensive that I couldn’t finish reading it.

What the interview reveals, however, is Mayer’s honest search for meaningful relationships which has been playing out in his lyrics since his earliest albums. In reference to his social anxiety, he claimed “I have these accidents, these mistakes, these self-inflicted wounds, and then I tear my head to shreds about it for days.”

His words recall his song “My Stupid Mouth,” the third track on his 2001 album Room for Squares, in which he recounts a date gone wrong and the ensuing embarrassment and disappointment: “I’m never speaking up again. / It only hurts me. / I’d rather be a mystery / than she desert me.” It is his lyrical vulnerability, coupled with his melodic genius, which keeps cringing fans coming back for more.

Mayer began his career in the singer-songwriter acoustic genre and has since established himself as a legitimate blues guitarist, collaborating with legends such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and Herbie Hancock. While Mayer’s personal style is distinct, he conquers new genres like Napoleon conquered territory. His Spotify profile features all seven of his own albums (as well as several live recordings), but scroll down and you’ll find rows and rows of collaborative works through which he explored new genres and inspirations. The Search for Everything will be his seventh studio album, the result of a three-year recording project in Capitol Studios, one which was delayed while Mayer took a break to tour with the rock band Dead and Company.

Mayer’s quest for the next new sound provided the soundtrack to my childhood. My family listened to albums like Heavier Things and Room for Squares until I knew all the words by heart; well, all the words except the ones my mom muted to guard innocent ears.

The tracks for Mayer’s newest album show his various dalliances with different genres such as pop, blues, country, rock, folk, and soul. He does it all, and he does it well. In another interview with Rolling Stone, Mayer explains the inspiration and intention of his four newest songs, most notably “Still Feel Like Your Man” and “Emoji of a Wave,” which he confesses to be autobiographical in their lyrics. By releasing the album in “waves,” Mayer plays along with the theme of his album: heartbreak hangovers. “I still keep your shampoo in my shower in case you wanna wash your hair,” Mayer sings, describing the kinds of things he would do to trick his heart into believing his love wasn’t gone for good. The simple poignancy and relatability of the autobiographical lyric welcomes the listener into something personal, even silly, evoking a sense of solidarity between the singer and his audience. In his music, he confesses all. We are his confidants.  

The video on his website announcing his next tour spotlights Mayer’s skills as a guitarist as he off-handedly fingerpicks well-known melodies and broadcasts his equally recognizable personality. The video ends with him fudging some guitar riff off the top of his head and admitting, “I haven’t written that one yet, but it’s gonna be great.” Cocky, but probably true.

The Search for Everything blends all the genres Mayer has explored throughout his career. But if his past innovation is any indication of his future, he won’t linger on one sound for long as he forever reinvents his style. What fans can anticipate, though, is the constant and sometimes ugly reality in Mayer’s lyrics. Though it’s easy to criticize the man himself, his maddeningly good ear for melody and the honesty in his lyrics coax compassion and guarded respect. I keep coming back for more.

  • Jonathan J Paul

    Nicely written, Ms. Andrews. I like the fact that you acknowledge he’s said some innappropriate things, and probably at times still might, but also has serious talent pursued with artistic integrity. He does coax compassion with guarded respect, (very neatly phrased btw) and I feel if he can just focus on sharing more of his music and less of his image, then the respect will and can only become less guarded and more of an embrace. In the end artists are hyper-mega-sensitive human beings and it is their human frailty that makes them endearing. The key is how much can the artist keep private and how much do they feel necessary to share. People love artists who are more than their errors, yet equally not dismissive of their own failing.

  • Kate Riggo

    I don’t apologize, or cringe. I love John Mayer’s music and never get tired of listening to it. Yes, Body/Wonderland was a little squishy and nobody else could’ve pulled it off, but it’s cute and innocent and sexy in its own way. And part of his charm is that he says (or sings) everything that’s in his head.

  • NeonAtmosphere

    The Rolling Stone interview you call “recent” is like seven years old. Thought I should point that out.