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12 by John Mayer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features...



With all of his failed celebrity romances and foot-in-his-mouth interviews, John Mayer the person isn't always easy to love. But John Mayer the musician is a different story. His virtuosity never supersedes his pop songcraft, and his lyrics are searching, wise, vulnerable, and relatable. In my mind, he's the closest thing we'll get to a Gen X James Taylor.

This list covers the first 8 years of his career. Keep an eye out for 12 More by John Mayer, coming soon!

If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here


1. "No Such Thing" (from Room for Squares, 2001)
I'm on record with the opinion that Weezer are the ultimate Gen X musicians, but John Mayer is a very close second. This song captures that feeling of disillusionment and freedom that comes with going out into the "real world" and discovering it's not anything like our parents and teachers told us it would be.

2. "Why Georgia" 
Might be a quarter-life crisis.

3. "Neon" 
Though the lyrics is about pursuing a frustratingly elusive woman, the accompanying music is supremely comforting and soothing.

4. "Bigger Than My Body" (from Heavier Things, 2003)
Encapsulates that desire to feel that we're a part of something beyond ourselves.

5. "Clarity" (from Heavier Things, 2003)
A jazzy composition about those flashes where everything makes sense, and just how fleeting they are ("by the time I recognize this moment, this moment will be gone").

6. "Home Life" (from Heavier Things, 2003)
Probably my favorite John Mayer song. I wrote a whole piece about it here.

7. "Only Heart" (from Heavier Things, 2003)
A perfect example of how Mayer uses his prodigious guitar skills in complete service of the song.

8. "Waiting on the World to Change" (from Continuum, 2006)
Another Gen X anthem. We tend to be less politically active than the generations surrounding us, but not for lack of investment: "It's not that we don't care / it's just that we know the fight ain't fair."

9. "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" (from Continuum, 2006)
Pop music is full of metaphors for failing relationships, and this is one of the more elegant ones. The accompanying music is an appropriately languorous smolder. 

10. "Say" (from Continuum, 2006)
One of his best vocal performances.

11. "Heartbreak Warfare" (from Battle Studies, 2009)
The song is pretty darn good for the first three minutes, and then it just launches to a whole other level for a full minute before cooling down again.

12. "Half of My Heart" (from Battle Studies, 2009)
Taylor Swift provided background vocals on this country rocker that finds Mayer being brutally honest about his romantic shortcomings. Fitting, considering how their ensuing romance turned out (more on that in 12 More by John Mayer).

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