The charges leveled by indie nation against John Mayer are substantial: a few albums of adult-alternative drivel, a Dave Matthews-in-a-dorm-room aesthetic, and every grating second of his breakthrough single “No Such Thing.” Not to mention the overblown public affair that ignited the TMZ crowd this month.
And yet, something’s changing for young Mayer, and it started around the time he formed his trio with session stars Steve Jordan and Pino Pallidino. We know he’s been talented all along (Herbie Hancock doesn’t invite just anybody to be a Headhunter). With John’s rise came rumors of his affection for the blues, with extended shredding sessions in concert. His ability to use seventh chords and win Grammys was never at issue; it was his derivative, super-sensitive balladry that had audiophiles plugging their ears.
With his new record Continuum, we’re seeing brilliant glimpses at what J. May could do best: meld a strong pop sensibility to his burgeoning blues and bring the smoky sounds of Stevie Ray to the people. Sure, the record has that too slick sheen one expects from a major label adult alternative release, but John marries R&B and lots of licks to his hooks. It all makes for a record that’s ? really good. We can’t believe it either.
With an open mind, Scott and I went to see John perform his new material, and it was nothing short of amazing. Check the hot chops on the infectious, even Sting-y “Belief”:
For more of the new Mayer, peep this performance of the spare, metaphorical musings of “Gravity” on Conan last Tuesday. If you want to mull it over, take this for your Zune. (We keed.)
John Mayer – “Gravity” (MP3)
We’re convinced we’re witnessing the emergence of a true artist. And, this being Stereogum, John scores points with each smart-ass interview.
Of course, he could do a duet with Jessica and squander all of this good will in three minutes.