Just as easily as people
dismissed and ridiculed the “Daughters” era, the same people now dole out their admiration and respect for the ex-Jessica loving musician. From performing with ?uestlove on Chapelle’s Show, to receiving critical acclaim for the John Mayer Trio, all the way to rocking the eff out on a VW commercial – Mayer seems to have proven himself as a viable artist to many people. Among the many is often the guitarist-equivalent of the meathead; someone interested in rote memorization and subsequent manipulation of guitar scales instead of pushing musical and artistic boundaries.
The meatheads I’m speaking of work in Guitar Centers, love Pink Floyd and had previously cast Mayer aside as a “sissy” or a “tool” for his soft, and more or less lame, acoustic pop songs. They sometimes love bongos, put up Bob Marley posters and listen to music based on the prestige and culture that surrounds the artists – not the music itself. They like Jeff Beck because they’re supposed to, and they like Mayer because he can play about as good as anybody else they think they should admire. These musical flip-floppers exemplify one of the many reasons why I hate John Mayer.
My dislike has nothing to do with his early material, which cast him closer to a Jason Mraz than a Buddy Guy. In fact, I had no major problem with him until the tides started to change. Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, held outside Chicago this past Saturday, showcased some guitar legends, including the previously mentioned Clapton, Guy and Beck. John Mayer was present as well.
When challenged about liking Mayer, something like the Crossroads Festival will be brought up. The “he can hang with the big boys” argument, however, has never held any water. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of guitarists in the country that can jazz or blues solo just as well as Mayer can. There are a million good guitarists out there, just like the number of workers in any other field, and Mayer is just one of the pack.
There is nothing extraordinary about his songwriting or his instrumentation: it’s been done a million times and will continue to be repeated. The only thing extraordinary about his music is how ordinary it is. His pop songs, as well as his more “credible” material, are already so familiar to listeners that they can feel good about liking his stuff. It’s like watching a movie and understanding all the in-jokes – slightly exclusive but completely accessible.
Cover bands aren’t regarded as much more than passable duplicates of a real artist so why is someone that tries to pass their material off as “original” applauded? Mayer is a more complex version of The Redwalls … he adds nothing to music as an art or a culture.
Everything has been done, as they say, but that doesn’t mean an artist can no longer be original. It also doesn’t mean everyone has to be as innovative or brilliant as Animal Collective or Radiohead. An artist, in any form, should be unique in their expression of themselves. Their art should be saying something. Mayer’s guitar-work is uninspired and his songwriting is even more dismal. Rock and roll is not what it is used to be; it is an amazing part of our musical past; and Mayer is not its future. Whether it’s in the form of a new rock and roll idol or the creator of a subgenre yet to be heard, I think we need someone else to admire. And until then, I’ll “keep on waiting (waiting!) waiting on the world to change.”