It really is hard to choose which of John Mayer’s current discography warrants to be called his best since he really doesn’t have much that isn’t top notch, but I were to pick 5 songs that encapsulated the strength of his lyric writing, melody, chord structure and command of storytelling all while balance the pressures of a major label to be “listenable” without turning full cheese or hokeyness, I’d list these five in no particular order, if you think they should be ordered, let me know below. PS – to hear his new EP “Wave One” CLICK HERE
Gravity – This may be his crowning achievement of ALL TIME. From the lyrics to the melody to the singing, almost crying guitar solo in this song, it’s a great testament to his abilities as a player, a songwriter and a singer. It’s even more amazing when you see him do it live.
In Your Atmosphere – Few artists have ever written a more easy to digest pop themed song with such intricate guitar playing. This song really bends melody in a way that makes your heart just start getting that longing feeling like you want to call your ex and say you’re sorry for everything you did. His live performance of this song from “Where the Light Is” is the perfect punch in the mouth for anyone who’s ever said John Mayer is an overrated guitar player.
Stop This Train – Time is a train that is never going to stop. You cry and plead and beg to just stop for a second, maybe to go back and be a kid again, maybe just pause for a week or so and catch up on calling your family and friends you haven’t talked to in a while, but it doesn’t slow for a moment. John captures this notion masterfully in this heart pulling song on his album continuum, arguably his best album to date.
Nothing drives home your sense of impending mortality more than this:
“So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find a way to say that life has just begun”
The falsettos on the bridge during the line “he said turn 68, you’ll renegotiate” seem to hit every word with every right note. The way this song makes me instantly contemplate my own life and begin to miss my family members that aren’t even gone yet is why this very powerful song goes into my list of the the best of John Mayer.
Walt Grace’s Submarine Test – the first song John ever wrote in the third person and he went through great lengths to prevent a single soul from hearing it until the album it was on “Born and Raised” was released. After listening you know why. It is pure storytelling genius. Chris Botti’s sailing trumpet helps bring some unexpected tones and perks up the ears or what’s to come. Walt Grace, the main character of the story, is a bit of failed mad scientist, doubted by his own wife, laughed at by people…until he builds a one man submarine and travels to the the shores of Tokyo…his first true success story. He rises up through the criticism and doubt and does something his loved ones can be proud of.
When weeks had passed since his leaving,
The call she’d planned on receiving,
Finally made it home.
The news she’d never expected,
The operator connected,
A call from Tokyo.”
This is likely to be John creating a character to serve as a metaphor for his own struggles as a musician. The madness of claiming greatness before it happens, the ambition that leads you and all the struggles in between seem to be encapsulated by Walt Grace and his eventually successful home-made fan blade one man submarine ride.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room – What metaphor could be any better to describe the dying moments of a relationship?
“It’s not a silly little moment
It’s not the storm before the calm
This is the deep and dying breath of
This love that we’ve been working on”
Imagine it. You and that person you’ve so frustratingly tried to love to no avail. So you embrace each other for one last dance as the house around you burns to the ground. I’ve felt it before, I’m sure you have too. This metaphor alone makes this song a strong candidate for one of John’s finest.
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey – You know those phases of life where you get into a funk you can’t get out of? Symptoms may include: drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, crying yourself to sleep, reevaluating your life into another convoluted mess of meaninglessness.
“whiskey, whiskey, whiskey,
water, water, water, sleep
dream somebody missed me,
wake up shake it off and repeat
and repeat and repeat after me”
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey
Water, water, water
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey
Cut me off and pour me in the street”
Can’t you see it? Heading to the bar every night. Sitting down and feeling that upwelling and unexplained sadness as you sip on whiskey until the bartender cuts you off and throws you out? This very sad but very earnest look into this phase of John’s life is very antithetical to his “New Deep” Heavier Things days, this time of is life may have been to heavy for even him to carry, but makes for a very, very good song.
Paper Doll – After his quick lived romance with Taylor Swift, she wrote “Dear John” about him. He responded with this piercingly accurate song about her charades.
“You’re like 22 girls in one
And none of them know’s what they’re running from
Was it just too far to fall
For a little paper doll”
Nailed it. This is borderline Shakespearean-elegant insulting right here )(a little less languid and flowery but just as beautiful). Such a harsh accusation said so beautifully, you know exactly what went down in the relationship from this chorus alone. The catchy rotating guitar riff and ambient tones just transmit this message so beautifully it makes it into the best of John Mayer.
(fast forward to :30 seconds to skip the intro by the bizarre “Prancerize” lady”)