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John Mayer soars on new release

Emily Tumbrink, Assistant Scene Editor | Tuesday, September 9, 2003

John Mayer’s second studio release Heavier Things, one of the most anticipated albums of the year, has the ability to either make or break Mayer’s staying power as a pop star. Listed as number one on Amazon.com’s sales rank days before it was even released, the question of whether or not Heavier Things will live up to everyone’s expectations has yet to be answered.

From the opening strains of “Clarity,” the first track on Heavier Things, listeners can already tell they are in for something a little different. Abandoning the completely acoustic feel found on the majority of Inside Wants Out, Mayer explores a jazzier, more electric sound, complete with horns, with the end result sounding like a combination of Van Morrison and The Police. Though the comparisons to Dave Matthews have bombarded Mayer since he first entered the public eye, Heavier Things finds Mayer tackling new terrain and taking cues from the bands of his childhood. Mayer, always one to admit to being a bit of a “square,” has repeatedly named Sting as one of his favorite artists and this influence becomes apparent on the song “Homelife.” With lyrics like “I am not a nomad / I am not a rocket man / I was born a housecat / by the sleight of my mother’s hand,” Mayer once again shows his poetic skills with a wittiness that is unparalleled.

Mayer’s first single “Bigger Than My Body,” which was released in August, contains a catchy chorus and is more upbeat and rock-inspired than many songs on his previous releases. Familiar to many fans, the song “Something’s Missing” has been played during Mayer’s concerts for several years now, and the version found on Heavier Things remains relatively unchanged from the recognizable live version. Mayer’s talent as a guitarist is evident in “Come Back to Bed,” with his electric stylings becoming the central focus of the track. “Split Screen Sadness” possesses mournful strings layered underneath catchy drum and guitar hooks, creating a true sense of sadness in this otherwise upbeat song. But perhaps the most stunning ballad on Heavier Things is the final track “Wheel.” With beautifully spare instrumentation, Mayer’s voice takes center stage, and the soft guitar jam in the middle of the song is the closest thing to Mayer’s live performances found on any album.

When asked how Heavier Things would be different than his previous releases, Mayer told Crazewire.com that “It’s going to change a little bit. It’s not going to be so crazy. It’s going to become a little more electric, but not heavier, still smooth. The record is also going to be a little less sunny than “No Such Thing” (I remember somebody saying that it had a tropical light). It will be more complex. I like the idea of producing record after record, and them all being completely different. Hopefully, I won’t lose too many fans in the process.”

Quickly growing in popularity since his major label debut Room for Squares, Mayer has rapidly become a household name. On Heavier Things, Mayer both explores new territory, and also reformulates the familiar sound found on both Inside Wants Out and Room for Squares. Though Mayer must be classified as a pop star due to the accessibility and popularity of his music, his obvious talent as a singer/songwriter shines through on Heavier Things, making him more comparable to the new brand of pop stars including Norah Jones, rather than the likes of Britney Spears. Heavier Things shows marked progress from the successful Room for Squares, and is sure to bring even more critical acclaim and success to this wunderkind.

Contact Emily Tumbrink at etumbrin@nd.edu