It’s a classic tale in the rock and roll canon.
Young heartthrob rises to glory with good looks and catchy pop tunes. Said artist tries to shed former image by releasing heavy-handedly mature follow-up album. Musical disaster ensues.
With his second major label release, Heavier Things, singer-songwriter John Mayer is walking a fine line between building credibility/career longevity and turning himself into our generation’s David Cassidy. After the youthful exuberance that punctuates 2001’s Room for Squares (many of whose songs were written when he was a teenager), Mayer is obviously in a hurry to show that he has grown up.
Unfortunately, anxiety and naivete, a common thread in the tunes that make up Squares, seem to be a necessary part of Mayer’s magic. Without them, the songs on Heavier Things (for whatever reason) aren’t nearly as good: the hooks aren’t as catchy, his voice not as captivating, the lyrics and images not as vivid.
That being said, the album is not a total wash by any stretch. Some tunes (most notably the one-two punch of album openers “Clarity” and “Bigger Than My Body”) show that Mayer definitely still has something to offer. In addition, the electric nature of Heavier Things gives Mayer more of a chance to show off his soloing prowess. However, these selling points just barely atone for stinkers like “Daughters” and “Something’s Missing” (which, in this writer’s humble opinion, would have been a more accurate title for the album).
For those who hated John Mayer the first time around, Heavier Things might be worth a listen. But for those who turned “Room for Squares” and a bowl of popcorn into a legitimate Friday night activity, the “new” Mayer is likely to disappoint.
Lets hope that Heavier Things represents merely a quick bout of growing pains and not the death knell of one of the more promising young faces on the scene.