The Grammy Awards are deceptive on two counts. First, that this roomful of stuffed shirts, many of whom have not touched a musical instrument or spent any significant time in a recording studio in the last decade, if ever, represents the heart and soul of the record industry. The second is the very notion that the record industry has a heart and soul.
A Grammy usually means a "sales bounce" for the winning act, so record labels are driven to do what they can to make sure their artists get a trophy. Votes are often bartered or traded. But since the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), the organization that runs the Grammys, doesn't have the power to start a war or raise taxes what harm does a little vote fraud do? No, probably the most bothersome issue regarding the Grammys is that the voters/membership regularly appear woefully out of touch. Years ago, NARAS narrowed the number of categories members could vote in, hoping they would stick to their fields of expertise. That helped a little, but hardly enough. NARAS membership skews older - and conservative. Regardless of the genre, given the choice between innovative and edgy or safe, the Grammy voters error on the side of caution.
Every now and then, the membership tries to update its image by anointing some fresh face (who's sold millions of CDs), preferably one with a tasteful appearance and is sexually non-threatening, as their hero. Beginning in '02, and continuing for the next several years, John Mayer was that guy.
Mayer's musical beginnings were fairly typical. His father got him a guitar when he was a teen. A couple years later he joined a succession of bands that started with Villanova Junction and ended with the duo LoFi Masters (with Clay Cook). In the process, Mayer left his native Connecticut and moved to Atlanta. When the LoFi Masters split, Mayer cut a solo EP with the help of producer/engineer, and in this case co-writer, Glenn Matullo. The effort got Mayer signed by Columbia Records who released "Room For Squares" in '01. The album was an immediate success spawning three good sized hits, "No Such Thing," "Why Georgia" and "Your Body Is A Wonderland." Two years later, "Heavier Things" was issued. Though it didn't sell as well as the debut it did well riding the single "Daughters" which was Mayer's biggest hit to date. The live "On Any Given Thursday" followed.
Mayer was huge but wasn't taken seriously. Having SRV (for Stevie Ray Vaughan) tattooed on his chest didn't automatically make him a serious musician. Regularly dismissed as a vacuous "pretty boy," Mayer, who was prone to panic-attacks, decided to change course.
Early '05 saw the launch of the John Mayer Trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan. The group, with a pronounced Blues guitar sound, spent much of '05 and a good part of '06 touring, even opening for the Rolling Stones, before they ventured into the studio. "Continuum," was the result. The album spawned "Waiting On The World To Change."
With the summer of '08 well underway Mayer issued "Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles," a two-disc effort. It contained an acoustic portion, then one with the John Mayer Trio, and lastly a set by Mayer's "Continuum" band.
Mayer performed an instrumental guitar version of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" during Jackson's '09 memorial service in L.A. It's got to be weird to play on a stage with the deceased in a coffin down in front.
Mayer's performance was deemed tasteful if a bit bland. It would have worked on any Smooth-Jazz radio station. Toward the end, the choir sang the hook but it didn't get the mourners to join in (though they clapped with the rhythm) which seemed to be the intent.
Mayer's fourth studio album, "Battle Studies," featuring "Who Says," landed in late '09. Though the album made its debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, the reviews were decidedly mixed. Mayer later admitted to Rolling Stone magazine that it was not his best album.
An '11 album release date was delayed when granulomas were found next to Mayer's vocal cords. He underwent surgery which sidelined him for several weeks. Initially, it was not seen as a major setback since the recording and mixing of the album "Born And Raised" was finished except for a few remaining vocal tracks. Those tracks were completed but within two weeks of the release of the lead single "Shadow Days," Mayer announced on his blog that his throat condition had returned and he was forced to cancel his tour and refrain from all singing indefinitely.
Despite all this, the album made its' debut at #1 on the Billboard 200.
With a lower profile, if you don't count the favorable review in Rolling Stone magazine, Mayer issued his sixth studio album in '13. "Paradise Valley" contained the lead single "Paper Doll," and "Who You Love," a duet with girlfriend Katy Perry. The latter was about love and accepting one's shortcomings.
The album debuted at #2 at on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week U.S. sales of 145,000 copies. Mayer also embarked on his first tour in three years. In addition, he hit the road with Dead & Company, which consisted of ex-members of the Grateful Dead.
"The Search For Everything: Wave One," a four-song EP that was precursor to the full-length LP "The Search For Everything," also just missed the top spot on the Billboard 200 (landing behind Weeknd's "Starboy"). "Love On The Weekend" was the lead single from the '17 release.
2001 Room For Squares
2003 Heavier Things
2009 Battle Studies
2012 Born And Raised
2013 Paradise Valley
2017 The Search For Everything
Billy Joel and Elton John could be counted on to have pop hits regardless of (or in spite of) the latest trend. Both started in the '70s. Joel gave up the ghost in the early '90s. John, blessed with more talent, lasted a bit longer. In the pop world, both had incredible runs. But as they aged, gracefully or not, the question arose, "who would fill their shoes?" Well, how about Mayer?
He is reminiscent of Michael Franks without the Jazz overtones or Kenny Rankin with a much stronger sense of song structure.
Mayer has a breathy, emotive voice and the ability to pen and sing a good melody.