If you live in the UK, the name John Mayer probably won’t be too familiar to you. In the United States though, it’s a whole different story. His album, Room For Squares, has gone triple platinum, he’s won a Grammy for his single Your Body Is A Wonderland, and Elton John has namechecked him, together with Ryan Adams and Pete Yorn, as one of the most talented young songwriters around.
Listening to Room For Squares, it’s easy to see what Sir Elt found so appealing about it. Good old-fashioned songwriting lies at the heart of the album, and Mayer is an expert in writing funny, touching, self-deprecating lyrics. Heavier Things is, as the title suggests, a less poppy affair than its predecessor, and while the songs may not be as immediate, it makes for a more satisfying listen.
The mood is set by the infectious opener Clarity. A delicate piano and trumpet introduce the song before Mayer’s richly textured vocals come into play (he still sounds uncannily like fellow “huge in the US” singer Dave Matthews though). The lyrics seem to be about Mayer coming to terms with his new found fame (“and I will wait to find if this will last forever”), a theme that recurs throughout the album.
Elsewhere, Mayer’s acoustic roots are nicely displayed in Daughters (although the lyrics here do verge on the cringeworthy), and Come Back To Bed is a smoky blues ballad with a guitar solo that Eric Clapton would be proud of.
Possibly the best track on the album is the excellent Something Missing – a witty bout of soul-searching in which Mayer ponders, “How come everything I think I need always comes with batteries?” before running through a checklist of things in his life (“friends – check, money – check, a well slept opposite sex”).
If there’s any criticism to be levelled at Heavier Things it could be that the production is very polished and sometimes robs Mayer of his edge. Anyone who’s heard his early live recordings knows what a great acoustic guitar player he is, but on some songs this is lost under the FM sheen. It doesn’t matter that much though, as the songs are so strong.
A review of this album wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the excellent CD booklet. Each song is colour-coded with its own keyword – there’s even a map showing the geographical location where each song was written, and an indication of which part of the body each song is “targeted” at. It’s attention to detail like this that make John Mayer so special and why he deserves to be a huge star in other than his own country.