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Commentary: John Mayer’s talent trumps recent controversy

BY RACHAEL LANDER | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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John Mayer is a jerk.

It’s not a secret. Nor is it a statement worthy of ostracizing those who dare speak it. Hell, even Mayer knows.

Two recent articles, one in Playboy, one in Rolling Stone, featured Mayer being, well, Mayer. In Playboy’s article, the singer/songwriter (un)shockingly referred to his love-making with Jessica Simpson as “sexual napalm.” Then, if that wasn’t enough, he went ahead and slipped in a seriously derogatory word. Oops.

The Rolling Stone feature described Mayer’s passion for porn and screwing chicks. But, didn’t we know that? Well, didn’t we at least guess?

Mayer is a classic case of crazy. He famously scares the crap out of journalists, speaks frequently about women’s genitalia, and has more feelings than a 16-year-old girl. But the question must be asked, do his fans really care?

Speaking from a personal standpoint, John Mayer’s bluntness, cynicism, and high level of arrogance is incredibly entertaining. I find it an attractive quality and wouldn’t mind if he took me into a back room somewhere to talk about how he’s looking for a girl with more than eight crayons in her box.

But for those who find such a high level of obnoxiousness a turnoff, is Mayer’s music enough to keep them from being completely repulsed from his actions? Well if it isn’t, it should be.

Mayer is a remarkable guitarist, fantastic lyricist, and soothing singer. His albums, most notably Continuum, are groundbreaking in their own right, and he deserves every award he’s ever garnered. Indeed, maybe he even deserves some he didn’t.

But those are hefty statements — maybe even to Mayer’s most loyal fans — so allow me to delve into the reasons the artist should be allowed to be arrogant if he keeps making such fantastic tunes.

Mayer’s first release, Room for Squares, gave listeners “Why Georgia,” “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” and “Neon,” on top of many other notable tracks. But those three in particular coupled deep (and incredibly realistic and relatable) lyrics with memorable melodies. And really, it was the first introduction listeners had to Mayer’s insane guitar playing. Insane of course meaning unbelievably mesmerizing.

And then, two years later, Mayer gave his fans Heavier Things, and with it came the tracks “Bigger Than My Body” and “Clarity,” one that is well-known, the other that isn’t (according to radio play, at least). The latter is such a gem in Mayer’s music and a real example of the artist’s uncanny ability to create songs his fans need — writing tracks encompassing feelings so many have.

Continuum came next, and honestly that album speaks for itself. The 2006 release really turned Mayer into an all-out blues guitarist and brought tracks, “Waiting on the World to Change,” “Gravity,” “The Heart of Life,” and “Dreaming with a Broken Heart.”

Mayer had a lot to live up to after Continuum; maybe that’s why he waited nearly five years before another release, but Battle Studies (though it didn’t live up to the greatness of its predecessor) was fantastic in its own right. For anyone dealing with heartbreak, Battle Studies will get you through.

So for those who deign to judge Mayer solely on his obtrusiveness and public persona, go ahead, but if you’re willing to look past the arrogance and focus on the music, maybe you’ll find it speaks louder than him.


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