Sometimes an artist just needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point...
Having settled into the "elder statesmen" phase of his career, John Mayer has allowed his muse to lead the way. The result thus far as been country rock John Mayer, Laurel Canyon John Mayer, r & b John Mayer, and adult contemporary John Mayer.
This list covers his career from 2012 to 2021. Check out 12 by John Mayer for the first half of the story!
If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here.
1. "Born and Raised" (from Born and Raised, 2012)
When Mayer commits, he commits. For his Laurel Canyon album, he actually got David Crosby and Graham Nash to sing backup on the easy-going title tune.
2. "Queen of California" (from Born and Raised, 2012)
A lost AM hit circa 1973.
3. "Paper Doll" (from Paradise Valley, 2013)
I love dis tracks, especially when the dis-ee responds with their own dis track (great examples: Paul McCartney's "Too Many People" and John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?"; Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya" and 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up"). "Paper Doll" is Mayer's response to Taylor Swift's scathing 2010 kiss-off "Dear John." Three years later Mayer retorted with "Paper Doll" which uses the titular metaphor to accuse Taylor of being coddled and not knowing who she really is: "You're like 22 girls in one / and none of them know what they're running from."
4. "Who You Love" (from Paradise Valley, 2013)
When I first heard this '70s AM radio style duet with Katy Perry I thought it was a Pride sort of "love is love" message, but then I realized that the then-couple were singing about their own unlikely relationship.
5. "You're No One Until Someone Lets You Down" (from Paradise Valley, 2013)
A pure country tune shows that Mayer could have made it in Nashville circa 1965.
6. "XO" (digital only single, 2015)
The rock-musician-covers-the-r-&-b-song thing is pretty played out, but Mayer takes on this Beyoncé tune not with his tongue in his cheek, but with his heart on his sleeve.
7. "Still Feel Like Your Man" (from The Search for Everything, 2017)
Fantastic groove on this one actually feels like a callback to his first album.
8. "Moving On and Getting Over" (from The Search for Everything, 2017)
Absolutely love the bridge on this one, as well as the Marvin Gaye-esque vocal performance.
9. "Helpless" (from The Search for Everything, 2017)
A bit of harsh self-reflection in which Mayer wonders he's constitutionally destined to fail at romance: "The same brain that brings me ecstasy / Is the same brain that gets the best of me."
10. "Shot in the Dark" (from Sob Rock, 2021)
I think most critics and fans were surprised to find that Mayer going full adult-contemporary-circa-1987 was not as much of a stretch as they expected. Truth is, those soft rock elements have always been a part of his musical DNA, he's just never before leaned so hard into them.
11. "Til' the Right One Comes" (from Sob Rock, 2021)
Mayer obviously ruminates a lot on why his relationships have a tendency to implode, but this particular song finds him making a shift from being hard on himself (as on "Helpless" and "Half of My Heart") to expressing a resolute optimism.
12. "Last Train Home" (from Sob Rock, 2021)
An 80's style keyboard line drives this tune forward, but what really makes it for me is the occasional sprinkling of thrilling guitar bits that get more and more frequent before taking over at the song's conclusion.