14 April 2010
Something to Talk About
I've been an extreme John Mayer fan for almost a decade now and although I've gone through my fits of loving "Neon", "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)", and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room", I truly believe "Assassin" off his latest album Battle Studies is the absolute best of his career. For my ears it is one of the best songs I have ever heard. I am a huge lover of all kinds of music but this song has something so indescribably special about it. It is a sweeping, dramatic, dark, rock song with some of Mayer's best vocals and phenomenal guitar solos.
My absolute favorite part is when it breaks down in the middle with the bridge:
Suddenly I'm in over my head and I can hardly breathe
Suddenly I'm floating over her bed and I feel everything
Suddenly I know exactly what I did, but I can not move a thing
And suddenly I know exactly what I've done
And what it's gonna mean to me, mean to me
It is emotionally overwhelming. It's a perfect example of a song that goes outside the regular limits of a piece of music. It is not a song that stays within the confines of your headphones, it gets into your head and evokes a new feeling that sticks with you. A lot of John Mayer's songs do this for me but "Assassin" particularly has an inescapable net that gets me every time. There are so many different components all rolled into a nearly six minute song. It's an episode of a television show or a mini-movie.
There are a lot of biases that come with John Mayer's music for some reason and I'm aware of this. I know he's a love/hate celebrity and his voice is in that Conor Oberst/Bob Dylan category of such distinction that you either want to hear it all the time or think it's as bad as nails on a chalkboard but his musicianship cannot be denied. Even the biggest John Mayer haters recognize he is a brilliant guitarist first and foremost and his songcrafting skills are superb.
Forget "Say" or "Daughters" or any other schmaltz he has out on the radio, the real meat of any John Mayer album is in the deep cuts, the tracks you'll never hear on the radio (his best single, "Clarity", was rarely played after its release). Listen to a song like the bluesy "Come Back to Bed" off Heavier Things or my personal favorite "Covered in Rain" off Any Given Thursday and you'll hear the superior musicianship of a man far beyond his peers in terms of style, technique and ability. It's astonishing. This is a guy who has the nerve to cover "Bold as Love" and "Crossroads", two of the best-loved guitar tracks ever on his major label releases and actually pulls it off! (I don't completely understand his cover of "Crossroads" - chopping it up and making it jazzy but he makes it his own).
He is one of the only people I would EVER spend $100.00 a ticket on, let alone five times a year on some occasions. I may be a young female like the majority of his fans but you don't see a dude thirty times in a few years because he looks good - it is because he is a tremendous musician with the power and talent to put together some of the best concerts I have ever seen. His music is haunting, sophisticated, and sensual in a way that is usually reserved only for jazz. He is an absolute musical force. I don't care how dopey he is in his personal life.
There is a moment near the beginning of the new Tina Fey/Steve Carrell film "Date Night" where Tina's character is getting ready for a night on the town - "Heartbreak Warfare" begins playing and there is no dialogue during that time. When it came on, I immediately wanted to write a blog post about it: I completely fell in love with John Mayer's voice all over again. Embarrassingly I saw this movie alone (maybe because no one wants to be seen with a John Mayer freak?) and when the song came on, I felt like I was with an old friend. I probably would've felt this way about The National too but no other artist. Music is a faithful companion.
Embarrassingly once again, I can actually think of several times off the top of my head when John Mayer played at just the right time (during the written portion of my driving test, in the movie 'Serendipity', when I was sad in a supermarket..etc.). John Mayer and The National are probably better friends to me than most of my real life friends and definitely better than most of my distant family. And I believe if you all think hard enough about it you'll realize that your favorite musicians are the same way. Music is an all-encompassing, passionate art form that when used properly can take over every inch of your mind and body.
I'm in love.
(fan-made video that is really exceptional for John Mayer's "Assassin")