One throwaway reference to a John Mayer song and the challenge before myself and two colleagues was clear.
We dubbed it “John Mayer Day,” an entire workday where we would open each and every conversation between one another with a line from the John Mayer song catalogue.
Have something to say? Drop a few verses from “Your Body is a Wonderland” or sit in silence.
These rules were tougher to adhere to than any of us expected but did produce a few gems, namely when lyrics from “The Heart of Life” were used to unleash a frustrated verbal assault upon the office voicemail system.
In theory, this exercise should have been a walk in the park for me because I long have been, and remain, an avid John Mayer fan, an admission that seems as in vogue as expressing a fondness for Dane Cook or Savage Garden.
I’m unsure of when it happened but at some point it became uncool to like John Mayer, especially for men, who were gawked at as though they wandered into a Mary Kay party when attending one of his shows.
That music isn’t for you, they told me. It belongs instead to soccer moms and sorority girls.
Not for me? I don’t buy it.
I remember hearing “Room for Squares” as a high school senior and thinking, maybe for the first time, that this was a record written just for me, a musical articulation of the things I was experiencing, feeling and thinking but had been unable to express.
I remember returning to school after seeing Mayer perform at the Egyptian Room in Indianapolis and evangelizing to anyone who would listen about the performance, particularly Mayer’s guitar chops, which rivaled anything I had seen since marveling at old clips of Stevie Ray Vaughan on “Austin City Limits.”
The songwriting of James Taylor or Paul Simon paired with guitar parts that would make Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton sit up and take notice? I was hooked.
Not everyone was impressed.
The backlash soon began and, despite my well-reasoned objections, hating John Mayer became fashionable.
Some of it had to do with the music — gushy songs like “Daughters” only fueled his detractors — but a lot of it didn’t.
Many of the Mayer haters used his all-too public trysts with the interminably pregnant Jessica Simpson, celebrity spinster Jennifer Aniston and break-up anthem specialist Taylor Swift as proof that Mayer was a phony, his “sensitive guy” music and image merely a ploy to lure women.
At the risk of sounding insensitive, I didn’t, and still don’t, care about the tabloid fodder that has nearly become synonymous with my favorite singer/songwriter.
It is possible, and often necessary, to separate the art from the artist.
This week, in honor of John Mayer Day, eight John Mayer songs that might help the uninformed gain a new appreciation for his music.
If you’re looking for role models, I’d suggest altogether bypassing the world of entertainment.
• “Covered in Rain” — A song, featuring a killer guitar solo, about living and loving in post-9/11 New York City.
• “Split Screen Sadness” — A genius song about two people struggling with the same heartache.
• “Another Kind of Green” — A song about appreciating what you have while you have it.
• “Wheel” — What goes around, comes around.
• “Shadow Days” — Sadly, one of the last new John Mayer songs we’re likely to hear for a while as Mayer recovers from a vocal chord injury.
• “Stop This Train” — A song that perfectly captures the powerlessness of watching your parents and loved ones age.
• “Who Says” — A return to form for Mayer and, unfortunately, one of the few bright spots on 2009’s “Battle Studies.”
• “St. Patrick’s Day” — An old favorite and not just because of the name.
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