Thoughts on ‘Sob Rock’… and John Mayer.

For more than half my life, I’ve reserved a pretty big spot in my heart for John Mayer.

His song, “No Such Thing” hit the charts when I was 16. My dad, a massive music lover, bought Mayer’s debut album, “Room for Squares,” and let me borrow it.

“You should listen to this,” my dad said. “It’s pretty good and he’s only 25.”

Yeah, people were pretty blown away by Mayer’s talent — the voice, the witty lyrics, the guitar skills… Admittedly, I thought he was trying to be another Dave Matthews, and well, I was DEDICATED to Dave.

But Mayer wiggled his way in with his “I played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shakers” lines and to this day, “Room for Squares” is one of my favorite of his albums.

It wasn’t long before I started going to John Mayer concerts — the first one was a free festival in downtown Cincinnati and then I bought tickets to see him in Chicago with Guster. I will still never forget being in a packed crowd of people hearing everyone sing “Comfortable” — a song he rarely sings now.

Since then, I’ve followed him around the country, seen him in concert in Dallas, New Orleans, Louisville, Vegas, and New York City, among others. I’ve listened to his music so much, I can tell what song he’s about to play just by how he tunes his guitar.

I even had a friend ask me mid-concert, “Why do you even see him in concert if you know what he’s going to play?” I’d seen him three times on the same tour, and I guess that’s annoying? IDK.

I guess you could say I’ve been along for the ride. I stuck around through the “sexual napalm” era — a time when it wasn’t easy being a fan — and went along with him to “Paradise Valley.” We all stood by when the Swifties came for us. We said goodbye to the boy-next-store and accepted the Hollywood escapee as he hid in Montana and grew out his hair.

And well, we got “Current Mood” — an Instagram show on Sunday nights — instead of an album. In fact, “Current Mood” was quite a savior during quarantine. Mayer admitted how tough the pandemic was for him, given that his dad (in his mid 90s) was living in an assisted living home in New York.

But, about a month ago, I heard something pretty disgusting about John Mayer.

I don’t want to say it’s a rumor, because I’m 99% sure it’s true, but I don’t want to say it’s a fact, because well, I haven’t seen firsthand evidence, thank God.

It was the kind of information that makes you question who the hell you’ve been screaming for all these years. It was honestly pretty hurtful.

And yes, this probably sounds pretty ridiculous if you’re not a John Mayer fan. To me, though, it’s the equivalent of being a Chris Brown fan, a Michael Jackson fan, a Bill Cosby fan, a Chrissy Tiegen fan, a Kanye West fan… I could go on.

I’d like to note that what I heard about John Mayer is nothing illegal.

In the last handful of years, a lot of us have had to come to terms with the truth about who the people we Stan really are. I cannot express, in proper words, how upset I was when I heard the news about Matt Lauer.

When I heard this news about John Mayer, I was disgusted and disappointed. How was I ever going to listen to his music again, knowing this? How was I ever going to stand in a room full of strangers screaming along with the lyrics we all knew and loved?

Well, it’s all going to take time.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and even talked to my friends and family about it. And I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. It is possible to separate the person on stage (or on the court or in the movie) than the person behind closed doors.
  2. I refuse to let this part of John Mayer take away all of the joy, peace, and comfort I’ve received from his music over the years.

And that’s where I find myself today.

But, the entire month or so I was trying to get to this place, I kept hearing and seeing the promo for “Sob Rock” — Mayer’s 8th studio album, and first album since 2017.

There have been ads, billboards, merch… I wanted to scream STOP TRYING TO MAKE SOB ROCK HAPPEN!!!

Admittedly, I bought a crap ton of merch before I heard the news and now I’m going to get a box of the stuff at my doorstep any day now.

But, I am still a John Mayer fan (even though I’ve moved Justin Bieber from my no. 2 spot to my no. 1 spot, because a girl needs someone who loves Jesus to lust after), so I’ve listened to the album and I do have thoughts.

For starters, it’s only 9 tracks which is probably the shortest album we’ve ever gotten. And… three of the tracks were previously released — “New Light,” “I Guess I Just Feel Like,” and “Carry Me Away.”

“Last Train Home” was released as the first single from the album and that’s where we all got a taste that this album was going to be a nod to the 80s, but it is a fantastic song.

I think a lot of fans, including me, can’t help but compare the lyrics to “Stop This Train,” which has a completely different take.

I’ve read lots of reviews on this album… some people say it’s the best of his work, or it’s so cohesive, and I disgree wholeheartedly.

Listen, I applaud any artist that worked and put out pieces from their days in lockdown. For Mayer, he said 80’s music was his comfort zone, and that’s why we’re here. Got it.

This is “Battle Studies” 2.0 — a stop on the journey to wherever we’ll be headed next. This is John Mayer slapping together some decent stuff for an 80’s album that’s got an old school advertising campaign surrounding it, but we’re not staying here for long.

John Mayer has always said that he wants to experiment with music and he never wants to be a one-note musician, so this is cute, but we ain’t going down this path.

Sure, the album has some great songs on it — just like “Battle Studies” does — but it’s not a cohesive masterpiece. I like “Shot in the Dark,” which is very 80s sounding but still has some solid Mayer lyrics.

In the video for “Shot in the Dark” we get some of Mayer’s cheesy dance moves, which he usually saves for tour (we saw some in the video for “New Light”).

I love “Carry Me Away” — but it’s not new. “Carry me Away” was actually my phrase for 2020.

“Shouldn’t Matter but it Does” honestly reminds me of songs from “Born and Raised,” which I think is his BEST work ever.

Do I love this album? No. Am I going to see it on tour? Yes.

Because I’m still a John Mayer fan. It may not be QUITE on the same level, but his music has brought me solace in times when I needed it most. It’s inspired me, comforted me, and it’s brought me joy when I couldn’t find it anywhere else.

Seeing him on tour, sometimes with friends and sometimes just by myself, has really made me so happy. It’s also gotten me out of my comfort zone when I otherwise would’ve just stayed in my shell.

So, I guess “Sob Rock” is happening, for now.

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