John Mayer Channels Various Genres in “Wave Two”

Photo courtesy of Clare, Flickr

Singer-songwriter John Mayer still maintains a relatively high profile, although his current celebrity status is most likely due to his reputation as a womanizer, and not his musicianship: nearly a decade has passed since Mayer last reigned the pop charts. But Mayer has not stopped recording, and his latest album – the somewhat vacuously titled “The Search for Everything” – is scheduled for release sometime this spring, although he has yet to announce a date. In the meantime, the bluesy pop artist is releasing batches of material in anticipation of the album. Labeled “waves,” each collection features four songs to be featured on the complete record. The first wave debuted in January; “Wave Two” was recently made available.

The music of “Wave Two” shares the smooth, soft qualities of Mayer’s early songs, which are now radio staples. However, while the performer of “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Daughters” retains his bubblegum sensibility, his new material is marked by overtly retro touches: “Still Feel Like Your Man” is groovy R&B, and “Roll It on Home” is vintage country; Even “Emoji of a Wave” feels old. Only “Helpless” sounds like standard Mayer. Of course, there is nothing wrong with Mayer’s deviation from the norm, as the output of any artist changes over time for good or ill. However, Mayer’s transition is not markedly better, or worse, than his previous work: his new material is best described as a parallel movement. While the quality of his work has not necessarily changed, his style certainly has.

“Still Feel Like Your Man” is good, although a certain degree of egotism is revealed through Mayer’s lyrics: while the singer is still hung up on an ex-girlfriend, he is sure to point out “the prettiest girl in the room” wants only him when he attends parties. “Roll It on Home” is an easy, melancholic listen, although a somewhat uninspired one; “Helpless” is a dud. “Emoji of a Wave” is the standout track of the collection, marred only by its horrible title: featuring the voices of Beach Boy Al Jardine and his son, Matt, the song is an intriguing one. The Jardines’ harmonizing, heard faintly in the background, is almost eerie.

Fans of Mayer will certainly enjoy “Wave Two.” Despite Mayer’s change in direction, the four songs are similar to the artist’s past offerings. However, the songs do not offer enough to entice new listeners. The uninitiated should start with a “greatest hits” compilation of Mayer’s work, rather than dive into “Wave Two.”