Thursday, February 11, 2010

John Mayer is not as much of a douche as you think he is

I'm not what you'd call a John Mayer "fan." I only own and enjoy one album of his, the solid live album Try! - it's the one where he plays in a blues rock trio setting with drummer Steve Jordan (Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos) and bassist Pino Palladino (The Who).

I've heard parts of Continuum and thought it was pretty good. But his earlier stuff never did much for me other than cause me to feel annoyed. So I was happy when he ditched his breathy acoustic pop schtick for a little while to open up his throat and belt out some soulful, rockin' blues. Everyone deserves a reevaluation when they really "try" and step outside their usual patterns.

Likewise, in spite of the uproar that emerged across Twitter and everywhere else that harbors a distaste for the 'n' word, I think John deserves another reevaluation from the haters.

First though, John was stupid to even bother to say that one offending two-syllable word in his Playboy interview (I've yet to read the full piece, but first heard of the whole affair at Billboard).

Second, John knows he was stupid to say what he said, in spite of his good intentions, and wisely issued a public apology very quickly.

Third, and most important of all, is what I see when looking past his clunky style of expressing himself lately. I did read the full Rolling Stone interview (highlights are available at the RS website) in the February 4 issue, the one where he says he's looking for "The Joshua Tree of vaginas." Eric Clapton, when commenting on John's music, says, "I think he becomes too caught up in being clever." Well, the exact same thing can be said about the way he represents himself to the press.

John understands that "being clever" is a sure way to get attention, and if he's ever going to "close out this life-partner thing," which he really wants to do just like a whole bunch of the rest of us, well, putting himself out there and getting attention is still a whole lot more effective than sitting alone in his room practicing scales all day.

As men, we're constantly thrown mixed signals. "Be nice." "Be yourself." We try to be nice, we try to be ourselves, and then we get nowhere. "Be original." "Be strong." We pull out clever, original words and make strong statements, and then get skewered for it. We can't win.

Looking past his style, I see John as just a regular dude who got really lucky in the music business and is now trying to come to terms with his unluckiness in the love department by stepping up his attention-getting game. And he's stumbled very publicly. Most of us have the luxury of being able to stumble without millions of people around the world knowing about it. But that was a risk he took, and admit it - it took some balls. Now the whole world knows that he doesn't completely have his game together with the ladies. On the flip side, however, he might start attracting sound advice now on how to get this part of his life figured out. If he's wise enough to listen, he might have inadvertently stumbled upon a solution to his problems.

I think deep down, John's a good guy. I bet he'd be fun to hang out with and have a few beers. And I'd welcome the opportunity to interview him, if only to try throwing in some encouragement to do another record like Try! He's got a gift, and has the blessing of masters like Clapton, B.B. King and Herbie Hancock. We gotta fight the good fight to keep great music alive, and knowing that he has it in him to do just that, he needs to know from as many of us as possible that this could be his life mission. Sticking to it and not wavering from it for a second will not only ensure that his career has lasting power beyond first-week sales, it will also very likely help him to "close out this life-partner thing." It doesn't seem like an intuitive thought, but it's one that men much wiser than myself have been saying. It's one to take on faith if it can't be understood right away.

John, dude, hang in there. And yes, do filter yourself a little more, but not so much that you stop being interesting and funny. Just, you know, don't say the 'n' word anymore. OK? Cool.


Anonymous said...

Dude. What are you smoking?

The guy is a Neanderthal. Like his music, but his personality leaves a lot to be desired.

harmolodic said...

'Anonymous' - like I said, his style of expression is clunky. The Salon author even acknowledged this by calling his brain a "freak show," which was a tasteless way to do it, though using terms like "freak show" is probably much friendlier to Salon's bottom line than "crying for help" in a story like this.

Did you read the RS piece? The guy knows he's saying things that are off the deep end, and his on-stage apology summed up exactly what I said here - he's been on an endless quest to be clever. And in the RS piece, he even acknowledged that he sometimes doesn't know what he's doing, and because of that, he "will continue to make these worldwide dignity mistakes as often as it takes to not make them anymore." I call that brave.

What I didn't mention here to put it into greater perspective is his public admission of using Xanax and Ambien and the fact that he has had problems with anxiety, also revealed in the RS piece. Is this starting to make more sense? Have you ever known someone who suffers from anxiety, takes these kinds of drugs, and says things that are a little off? I know I have.

It's your right to not like his personality, but calling someone a "Neanderthal" without calling all the facts to attention, as you did, is not only insensitive, it's short sighted. Everybody says nasty things, thinks nasty things, and expresses themselves in a clunky way sometimes. But those who do so in a public forum put themselves at risk of being completely misunderstood on a personal level, which you've perfectly demonstrated here. Take in *all* the facts, question the perspectives of the Playboy interviewer, read the RS piece, spend some time with all this info, *then* come back and tell me whether you still think he's a "Neanderthal."

Or don't. If you really don't care all that much, that's your right too.