Friday, February 28, 2014

Favorite Song Friday: No Such Thing

There are times, watching this video—as impeccable a union as can even be conceived between ravishing visuals and aural perfection—that it's easy to forget that John Mayer might possibly be the greatest guitarist, not just of his generation, but of the past 35 years. If he'll never threaten Jimi Hendrix's place, certainly since Jimmy Page abdicated the throne, he's a serious rival to the Edge and Johnny Marr and Nils Cline and Tom Morello, and most likely towers above them all.

His lyrics, obviously, are every bit the match of the transcendent music, with lines such as
I like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve
since where else would one keep one's best but tucked away up one's sleeve like a parlor trick? It is the rare lyricist, indeed, who could come up with such a resting place, as most would think that an artist would prefer to show his best face, his best work, to the world. But John Mayer is not just any wordslinger.
This small but perfect gem opens with
"Welcome to the real world," she said to me condescendingly
which is juxtaposed against the later insightful query
And all of our parents, they're getting older
I wonder if they've wished for anything better
While in their memories
Tiny tragedies
Oh goodness. The way the question is unanswered—indeed, the entire thought wholly unfinished, as if the pressure of the impending chorus caused him to leave it hanging there like a tattered, wilted piece of mistletoe left bereft after Valentine's Day, so despondent it apparently never even occurred to ask the parents in question the question. The angst is unparalleled in rock and roll—only Drake or Smith or perhaps Donovan or Bieber could come close in scope and depth—and all the more anguished for it.
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you've got to rise above
Voice of a Generation? No. Or, rather, yes, but that's not enough, that's not nearly enough. That's like suggesting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a little musical aptitude, or Steve Guttenberg possessed a modicum of comedic talent. So Voice of Our Generation? Sure. But Voice of All Generations is more like it. But most important of all is this: John Mayer is the Voice of My Soul. He says the things I feel but lack the talent, the courage, the words to say.

Take, for example, the concluding lines
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for
with their luminously literate allusions to leaders such as Bonaparte, Churchill, Palin, Khan, Gingrich, Alexander, Caesar, and the unstated but indisputable conclusion that he and he alone, John Mayer, will be there, magnificent atop the formica tables in the cafeteria to lead his poor benighted catechumens, like a modern-day Zelda Rubinstein with the body and visage of Apollo, into the light, not via the pearls of wisdom falling from his mouth but merely by sheer dint of his awesomeness, as no words will be needed. No, not for the likes of John Mayer acolytes—and whom amongst us cannot modestly call ourselves one? No, all they, all we, will need to do is gaze upon him and enlightenment shall be theirs. It shall be ours, all of us. That's rock and roll.

And speaking of: then, as the coup de grâce, we have the video itself, meaning we are blesséd to be able to watch him move, observe as he takes those lofty, abstract yet concrete concepts and alchemizes them into physical manifestations of integrity as his body translates those wisps of genius into the visuals of a pop song. As much as his dancing here reminds one of Michael Jackson in its feline, aqueous grace, it's his heavy-lidded, slack-jawed yet burning intensity that draws the obvious comparisons to the King himself, Elvis Presley. And when he gets to the goosebump-inducing bridge and purrs, "I am invincible," who would argue the point? Is there any such argument to be made?

No. No such thing. No such thing indeed.


  1. I have no idea what you're talking about.

    Okay, maybe I have some idea. Co-RtB'r Dan was swamped at work, so I decided to "help him out" by covering his usual Favorite Song Friday slot. I briefly tried to figure out which song he'd most like me to tackle before immediately realizing that was exactly the wrong approach. I therefore thought about which song he'd least like me to ghostwrite in his name, and it was pretty much a no-brainer, as there's only musician in the entire world that makes the two of us violently angry.

    As Shakespeare said, "I've always been kind of a pacifist. When I was a kid, my father told me, 'Never hit anyone in anger, unless you're absolutely sure you can get away with it.'" That describes both of us, I believe, but the mere sight of John Mayer's face blows all reason aside instantly. There's seriously no musician I can think of that makes me feel more violent than he.

    So I wrote this love letter in Dan's name and waited for him to see it. Which, thanks to some glitchy internets in the wilds of New England, he promptly didn't. And didn't. And didn't. I know the exact moment he did finally see it, thanks to hearing the blood-curdling scream all the way down here in SoCal and because he pulled the damn thing milliseconds later.

    But I was so pleased with the piece, that I decided it had to live on, even if (horror of horrors) it was in my name.


    Also, for the record? While I can't stand John Mayer? I really do like this song, the only one of his I can even tolerate for 10 seconds. The lyrics are so awful, so sophomoric, so panderiffic—I feel like when he was writing it, he was chuckling to himself, thinking of how many senior proms across this great land were going to choose it for their theme song, and the sweet green that'd subsequently be rolling in. And yet it's got a swell melody and the keyboard solo in the middle's really pretty. As for the video, the girls singing in the audience are adorbs.

    But sweet FSM those lyrics.

  2. Our friends are able to hurt us the most, aren't they?

  3. BTW, you know what you need when you have Tom Morello, Springsteen, the E street Band, and an AC/DC song?

    eddie Vedder