Before I make my formal debut writing my adventures on the MTV video channels (they do exist), let me make a stance clear. It’s obvious, but needs to be said. John Mayer does not make good music, and you should feel bad if you think so. Ok, ok, I won’t be
this reactionary douche that ruins websites that thought putting me here was a good idea. (Hi, editors!)
Tonight, John Mayer performed songs from his newest album. And well, lemme show you the cover of his new album first.
John Mayer is from Connecticut and is wearing a gorram poncho. He’s looking like the shittiest cowboy in the saddest studio production of a Gunsmoke episode. He looks stupid. Again, this guy was dating Katy Perry mere months ago, and now he’s selling himself as an Americana dude. Umm, this is about like me selling myself as a Pitchfork-type columnist after shitting on Kanye West. It just won’t work.
Mayer’s performance on Letterman was classic Mayer, which is to say completely unremarkable. But whereas the Mayer that ran through the halls of his high school and said “your body = wonderland” was a cheeseball, this is the Mayer who is suddenly serious. This is the Mayer that wants to be remembered as more than a bad standup comedian from that one VH1 special. And that is a nightmare.
His new song “Paper Doll” wants to ride on the sound of credibility from the Alabama Shakes, but here’s the thing: John Mayer does not have an Americana voice. I don’t even like the Shakes all that much, but Brittany Howard’s voice blatantly fits the music. Mayer’s voice doesn’t fit what he wants to make, however. His band, complete with wannabe Jack White looking fellas (I’m scared it will turn out Brendan Benson is actually playing with Mayer, although then it would still be true), churn out songs that need a different voice.
And the problem is, neither approach (Americana or sub-Jack White) will work. Mayer seems to get the beats that make good musicians put out good music, but then completely discounts himself in that variable. The reason a Canadian guy like Neil Young is somehow the champion of Americana and rockabilly and whatever is because Young knew where his voice fit. And as much as I’m guilty of not really giving lyrics/vocals their fair share, if you don’t sound like you have even a little twang, then you’re wasting the music made. And if you don’t sound a bit like Jack White or Gary Clark, Jr or whatever vocally, then what the hell are you trying to do with their music?