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John Mayer – The Search for Everything

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from chorus.fm for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    What the hell, John?

    Let’s journey back for a moment to New Year’s Day, when John Mayer told the world via his Instagram account that his new album, The Search for Everything, would be coming in four-song waves “every month.” Mayer never explicitly said that he would be releasing 48 songs in 2017, but he definitely implied it. Strongly.

    What he actually did was release two four-song waves—in January and February, respectively—and then announce a full-length album that would include all those songs, plus a few more. At this point, no one is sure whether Mayer will be continuing with the waves for the rest of the year or not. I don’t think Mayer even knows. On the one hand, CD versions of the new album label it “Vol. 1.” On the other hand, Mayer tweeted on release day: “And that ends an era: August ’14-April ’17.” Since The Search for Everything is an album about Mayer’s breakup with Katy Perry, and since the album is very much a “complete thought” on its own, there seems to be little reason that Mayer would continue this release cycle in any fashion.

    The botched, contradictory rollout for The Search for Everything is bound to become the narrative of Mayer’s seventh full-length. That’s a shame, because there are a lot of things about Search that are very poignant and moving. As a breakup album, it’s less unique than 2009’s Battle Studies, which ping-ponged back and forth between dark, late-night loneliness and songs that found the beauty in being alone. Everything is more of a standard issue post-relationship album, following a narrative of a guy getting over a girl he used to love. There aren’t many surprises, either in the story or in the songs, but Mayer is still a more thoughtful observer of the human condition than most of his contemporaries, and that fact shows in set highlights like the wry, Timberlake-esque “Still Feel Like Your Man” (“I still keep your shampoo in my shower/In case you want to wash your hair/And I know you probably found yourself some more somewhere/But I do not really care/’Cause as long as it is there/I still feel like your man”) or the shattering “Never on the Day You Leave” (“It’s never on the day you leave/You can tell how it’s gonna be/To watch a girl become a ghost before your eyes”).

    Despite his reputation as a cocky asshole, Mayer has always been good at getting vulnerable. “Stop This Train,” from 2006’s Continuum, is one of the best songs ever written about getting older and watching your parents age. The best songs on The Search for Everything are similarly insightful. “Never on the Day You Leave” is about how regret creeps in weeks or months after a relationship ends, as you realize all the little things you miss about that person. Mayer has called it “the saddest song I ever wrote.” It’s got competition for that title from “In the Blood,” which is also easily the best song on the record. A rumination on Mayer’s parents and their divorce, “In the Blood” asks questions with no easy answers—about a family torn apart and about how much of your parents’ flaws and mistakes are hardcoded into your DNA. “How much like my father am I destined to become?/Will I dim the lights inside me just to satisfy someone?/Will I let this woman kill me, or do away with jealous love?/Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”

    These highlights are easily more engaging and challenging than anything on 2013’s Paradise Valley, Mayer’s last record and still his most lightweight. But The Search for Everything can’t reach the heights of Mayer’s best albums, both because the release strategy has made it feel weirdly disjointed and because the sequencing does the songs no favors. Originally, when The Search for Everything was going to be 12 four-song EPs, it sounded like the perfect opportunity for Mayer to indulge all his different stylistic whims: blues, pop, soul, folk, country, and rock. Across the first two waves, that’s exactly what he did. Songs like “Moving on and Getting Over” sounded like they could have been on Continuum, while others, like the rootsy “Roll it on Home,” hewed closer to the Born & Raised/Paradise Valley era. Pulled together onto the same album, these songs are united by theme, but don’t jell together sonically.

    The sequencing is also a mess. Mayer picks the right opener (“Still Feel Like Your Man”) and the right closer (“You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me,” a resigned piano ballad in the vein of Randy Newman), but everything that happens in between feels like a random jumble. The downbeat “Emoji of a Wave,” a serene number that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jack Johnson record, is pushed into the album’s number two slot, killing any momentum established by the shapeshifting, tongue-in-cheek opener. The emotional wallop of “In the Blood,” meanwhile, is immediately lessened by the next song, “Changing,” a lyrically basic track that should have been left as a b-side. And the album’s second half opens with “Theme from ‘The Search for Everything,’” a pleasant but superfluous instrumental. It’s telling that the record actually plays better on shuffle than in the sequence Mayer chose.

    Despite its flaws, though The Search for Everything is a welcome return for one of the finest musicians and sharpest pop songwriters of the last 20 years. The album is ultimately more a summary of everything Mayer has done so far than a distinct new direction for him, but that’s okay. The chiming pop of “Love on the Weekend” calls back to Heavier Things and Battle Studies; “Roll it on Home” and “Emoji” would have been right at home on Paradise Valley; and roughly half the songs, from the soulful plea of “Rosie” to the sublime, Rumours-esque “Helpless,” see John returning to the fertile ground that brought us Continuum more than a decade ago. I’d like to have a more adventurous LP next time around, but for now, this one sounds pretty good to me.

     
  2. I hate when albums play better on shuffle than in the constructed track listing.
     
  3. disambigujason

    Trusted Supporter

    Great review. The quoted lyrics make me wanna revisit some of the songs, didn't pay too much attention the first time.
     
    Schooner likes this.
  4. mattfreaksmeout

    Trusted Supporter

    This is a great review/summary of the album, how I feel about the album, and how I think most people feel about the album. It's so close to being a John Mayer great, but he just kind of stumbles over himself, but overall a very enjoyable release.
     
    Jason Tate likes this.
  5. efp722

    Regular

    I will always give new John Mayer a listen; love him or hate him, he's got talent. While I can find moments that I enjoy, his last two albums fell a bit flat for me. So, I was super excited to hear that he was going to be releasing a lot of new music this year. And while the roll out has been very confusing, it almost feels as if he was forced by the label to downsize his vision last minute. All that said, I really like these songs (For me, the standout track is Rosie. That song has got enough groove to last for days).

    Like you said, you can see, hear, and feel the influences across his entire discography. I, too, am left scratching my head at the sequencing of the record. I was expecting the first two waves to be sequenced sequentially, with the last wave bringing up the end of the record. Maybe I'll create my own sequence in a spotify playlist or something? Either way, great write up!
     
    mattfreaksmeout likes this.
  6. Jonathan Bautts

    Newbie

    Mayer said on Instagram Live recently there will be additional waves coming this year. But with how many times the release strategy has changed already, who knows what that will entail or when it will happen. And he keeps mentioning putting out studio versions of older unreleased songs, i.e. In Your Atmosphere. Maybe those will be included, too? He's probably sitting on hundreds of songs on hard drives at this point, so hopefully we'll get more than these 12.

    I agree the sequencing does this album no favors. Emoji, Changing and Roll it on Home are all decent songs by themselves, but don't quite fit here and should have stayed on the Wave EPs. And the fake drum/clap sound drives me crazy on the otherwise stellar In the Blood.
     
  7. derekjd

    Slow down, Quentin Supporter

    I might be getting a little too metta, but I actually like the tracklisting. The entire record speaks thematically about breakup, and the sequencing kind of mirros it. You have those days when you're grooving right along (still feel like your man) and then you wake up the next morning and you're in this sort of blasé reflective state that people dho don't know you would confuse as peace (Emoji). You get some manic energy driven by feeling down (helpless), you think you've found someone new and all feels right (love on the weekend), and then you're like "who the hell am I and how do I become less screwed up" (in the blood). I might be stretching to find reasons to like the record (which I unashamedly and proudly do), but the disjointed nature seems to support the content, rather than detract from it.
    Well written, as always.
     
    carlosonthedrums and Schooner like this.
  8. DearCory

    Regular

    I'm thinking the label maybe had a say in how he's releasing his music... I don't think the "waves" were getting much press in the mainstream
     
  9. Yeah, I can imagine it'd be pretty difficult to get any major publication to sign on to giving John Mayer's EPs a new review every single month.
     
  10. a nice person

    Trusted Prestigious

    Diggin the record, not sure which tracks are standouts yet.

    I generally HATE when artists release EPs that end up connecting to a full album, or when they release one song a month for a year.
     
    truelovewaits likes this.
  11. SamLevi11

    Trusted Prestigious

    Really enjoy this record but agree that the track sequencing is terrible.
     
    Jason Tate likes this.
  12. ConArdist

    Subgenres Should Die

    Read the first line. I love Continuum, everything else about John Mayer can slag off.
     
  13. ConArdist

    Subgenres Should Die

    EPs are stupid. That's why EDM artists love them.
     
  14. thisisacting__ Apr 17, 2017
    (Last edited: Apr 17, 2017)
    thisisacting__

    Newbie

    My ranking:
    Continuum
    Battle Studies
    [Try!]
    The Search for Everything
    [Where The Light Is]
    Heavier Things
    Born and Raised
    Paradise Valley
    Room for Squares
    [Any Given Thursday]
     
    Schooner likes this.
  15. DooDooBird

    Trusted

    I feel like he's lost some focus after Born & Raised. Paradise Valley and this new one just seem all over the place. Not bad, I guess... just not gems like Born & Raised and Contiunuum were. To me, that's as good as it gets when it comes to listening to an album beginning to end.
     
  16. whitenblue88

    The rivalry is back on

    I listened to this on my ride to work this morning and liked it a good bit. Felt like a nice return to form after a couple albums I didn't get into.

    Track listing definitely felt kinda pieced together. I didn't listen to the EPs at all, but I just assumed the first 4 songs were EP1, the second 4 were EP2 and the last ones were the new ones, and that's why it was a little off. Was that not the case?
     
  17. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Same. That's a big part of the reason this is a "Recommended" instead of a "Highly Recommended."

    Definitely revisit those songs. "In the Blood" in particular is worth your time.

    Exactly. He's almost there, but it feels like it wasn't quite finished.

    I've been toying around with an alternate tracklist in my mind. I haven't actually tested it out yet, but I've mentally pieced some songs together after hearing them together on shuffle. I think "Still Feel Like Your Man" should lead into "Helpless" to start the record. That would have been killer.

    I wonder how I'd feel about a studio "In Your Atmosphere" at this point. The version on Where the Light Is is so perfect that I'm not sure he should mess with it.

    I think the songs are hewed around the same theme enough that you'd get a semi-cohesive record no matter what order you put them in. I personally don't feel like it follows an arc as well as something like Continuum or Battle Studies does. Those records are sequenced in ways that make them feel really massive and cathartic. Comparatively, this one feels almost minor to me.

    I bet you're right, but you'd think he would have talked to the label about it before he announced the waves.

    My ranking of just the studio records at this point is probably:

    Continuum>Born & Raised>Heavier Things>Battle Studies>Room for Squares>Search for Everything>Paradise Valley

    No, it's actually the first three tracks from EP 2 to start, then the lead single from EP 1, then a new song, and so on and so forth. The closer is also the closer from the first wave.
     
    efp722 and js977 like this.
  18. CMilliken

    Trusted

    Played this several times over the weekend. It's a really enjoyable listen for me.
     
  19. Couldn't agree more with this review, Craig. I find myself really loving the songs individually, but can't get into the album as a whole. On some days, I feel just as good about these songs as anything on Heavier Things while on others, I'm wishing I was listening to anything else by Mr. Mayer to get that comfort feeling I associate with his best work. I think this will end up sitting towards the middle of his albums for me. I'm definitely missing the groove of Continuum and hope he gets back to that again (or releases another Trio album).
     
  20. honkytonk

    Narcissism on narcotics

    Man I really dig Paradise Valley, probably in my Top 3 releases of his haha

    New album is good, agree with the comments about it being awkward/disjointed but I enjoy the majority of the songs and have found myself going back to them a lot.
     
  21. somethingliketj

    And that's why you always leave a note.

    I like most of this album, but man, the "strongly implied" release strategy definitely taints it a bit for me.