By Joel Hanek
In light of the recent controversial Playboy interview (where John Mayer was apparently auditioning for Howard Stern’s job, should Stern bolt the “shock jock” chair in favor of “American Idol”), fans and critics alike will be eager to hear how he addresses the situation in his music moving forward. But what about his back catalog? Did any of his old lyrics raise red flags? Does anything sound particularly ironic now? Let’s look at five notable entries.
“Your Body is a Wonderland”
In this sultry-yet-sweet ballad from Mayer’s debut album, the singer-songwriter croons about one of his favorite interview topics. Mayer describes his lady as having “candy lips and a bubblegum tongue” (quite the apt metaphor for a tune as saccharine as this). Then again, since his Playboy interview, I’ve completely second guessed the meaning of all his metaphors. After all, he compared Jessica Simpson to “crack cocaine” (“I want to quit my life and just f—ing snort you”). So what does this mean? Are “candy lips” and “bubblegum tongue” really just street names for airplane glue and whippits? (Probably not.)
“My Stupid Mouth”
I guess this song isn’t so much ironic as it is now painfully literal. Is it a correct self-diagnosis or just a premonition from a prognosticator with a laissez-faire sentiment about the future? While he does paint clever imagery of the uncomfortable situation when one places their pride behind them and tucks his tail between his legs, it’s now difficult to tell what Mayer is really thinking. After all, as we learned from the interview, Mayer’s life is dictated by two heads. “My d— is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a f—ing David Duke c—. I’m going to start dating separately from my d—.”
Obviously influenced in equal part by Sigmund Freud and Don Draper, Mayer acoustically warned fathers to be good to their daughters because — according to Dr. Mayer — parents influence the modes in which their children will socially interact as adults. This tribute to the Elektra complex surely had to win John Mayer some honorary Woman’s Studies degrees. If it wasn’t this song that did it, then it had to be when he said, “I now make the choice to sleep with Jessica Simpson.”
This carpe diem anthem for a movie about two lovable terminally ill old guys prods the listener to live in the moment and “Say what you need to say.” If you take Mayer’s example though, the song’s meaning doesn’t end after the chorus fades out. Nay! Say what you need to say, then say a little more, then say unabashedly crude and tactless things about former lovers and humans in general. So say what you need to say (until you realize they are horrible, horrible things, then quickly apologize).
“No Such Thing”
I was watching Zach Galifianakis’ hilarious-but-canceled VH1 late night talk show when I first heard John Mayer. As that night’s musical guest, Mayer came out and performed his debut single “No Such Thing.” The driving song thumped along while Mayer’s breathy voice transmitted a theme song about being a kid. As I was in high school at the time, I completely related to what the man was preaching. I felt like he totally captured what it was like being a teenager: Feeling simultaneously vulnerable and invincible, embracing nostalgia yet ready to rise above the past, the need to be an individual but the desire for approval. The teenage years are when you don’t know how (or you’re not ready) to act like an adult just yet, and that’s okay. Problematically, it seems like Mayer may still be figuring things out (even though it has been 13 years since he’s been a teenager). This song ends up being ironic: It’s the song that first made the world appreciate the man, but it’s also the first reminder of how things have soured.
What do you think? Will you still listen to John Mayer? Do you think he should address this situation in his lyrics in the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments!