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By Chris Moore:
Hello and welcome to a very special Monday edition of the Laptop Sessions! What makes tonight so special, you might ask? Well, for the first time in months, I’m bringing you a cover song music video of a song that has yet to be released. No worries, though — if you like this song, then you’ll be able to buy it in stores tomorrow.
The song I’m bringing you tonight is “Who Says,” the first single from the forthcoming 2009 John Mayer studio album Battle Studies. There’s a little bit of a story behind this one, so here goes…
I first learned about this album when I happened upon Mayer’s video blog established to document the recording sessions. The first video was a tour of his newly designed and built home recording studio. Do I even need to describe it? Believe me, it’s drool-inducing. Although a couple of the entries were only jams or just a bit weird, I ended up searching YouTube for some of the new songs. As I expected, most were available as live concert performances that someone videotaped and uploaded. I listened to a couple, including “Who Says,” and I started to get excited about this release.
I have a general rule against hearing too much of an album before it comes out. After all, it’s more than half the fun of buying a new album to be able to get in the car, put it on the CD player, and discover the music for the first time. Sometimes this is an exciting, expectation-defying journey (a la last week’s Echo & the Bunnymen album The Fountain). Other times, it can be just as disappointing an experience as one can have (i.e. U2’s No Line on the Horizon deluxe edition CD).
I should also comment on my recent opinion of Mayer.
As I wrote in my review of Where the Light Is, I am a big fan of Mayer’s first three releases — the independently released EP Inside Wants Out, his debut Room For Squares, and his follow-up Heavier Things. And yet, just as he gained “credibility,” I lost interest. Yes, his third album Continuum offers some interesting guitar parts and melodies, but I resented the idea that he needed to become a blues afficionado in order to be accepted by those outside his stereotypical audience of young girls. In my mind, this was a step backward in his songwriting. Did no one notice or appreciate the effort he put into the album design for the first two albums, or the backing vocals in “Your Body is a Wonderland” that echo the chorus lyrics of “My Stupid Mouth”? There was so much care taken with those releases that the minimalism of his last release was disappointing. From the title of Heavier Things alone, one could imply that Mayer was interested in tackling more “important issues” and being taken more seriously.
But, even in Heavier Things, he retained his sense of what was important — interpersonal relations, perspective, ambition, etc. On Continuum, political and social issues apppeared as the subjects for his songs, which always seemed out of place to me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have an intense sense of loyalty, sometimes to my own detriment. But I had told myself I wouldn’t buy future Mayer releases to spare myself further disappointment, as I did with Where the Light Is. That being said, I can’t deny that this single “Who Says” sounds more to me like the John Mayer that I enjoyed listening to on earlier works. It’s simple, catchy, and tackles the same desires that my favorite John Mayer songs always did — namely, the desire for freedom from personal and social expectations (think: “No Such Thing,” “Not Myself,” “Bigger Than My Body,” and others). I don’t read the reference to marijuana as a literal desire to get high, but rather as a symbol for what society or one’s friends and family members think you shouldn’t do because “it’s not like you.”
So, I’ll give the album a try.
And you better believe there will be a review forthcoming.
Until then, I hope you enjoy my video tonight. I’m not sure what came over me, but I made this one a real production. I tacked on a purposely goofy intro and follow-up documentary that I hope you laugh at — either because it’s funny or because you’re laughing AT me, as long as the result is the same!
And I know that I have other news and ideas on my mind that I wanted to share tonight, but I can’t remember what they are. So, for now, I hope you enjoy this video and hurry back tomorrow for an all-new Jim Fusco Tuesday, then later this week when I post another music review.
See you next session!