The Search For Everything
Genre: Pop-rock, Alternative Rock, Blue-eyed Soul.
Track List: 12 .
John Mayer is the 39-year-old, 6’4singer-songwriter responsible for pop-rock classics like “Your Body Is A Wonderland”, “Daughters”, “Waiting On The World To Change”, “Heartbreak Warfare” and “Half Of My Heart”. He is also the lothario with scores of famous ex-girlfriends, from Katy Perry to Taylor Swift to Jessica Simpson, the guy who revealed too much intimate info about past relationships in a 2010 Playboy interview (where he also used the N-word), and is regarded by many as a “self-aware, narcissist douchebag”. He has since been on a self-imposed media hiatus, moved from L. A to a less popular part of the country, released two less commercially viable albums in 2012 and 2013, and toured with legendary rock n’ roll band The Grateful Dead in 2015.
“The Search For Everything”, released on Good Friday, is his seventh studio album, and his first mainstream record since 2009’s “Battle Studies. The album features extensive work with Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino, the drummer and bass guitarist respectively who worked on the ultra-successful 2006 album Continuum, and involved a period of songwriting between August 2014 and March 2017.
Where the album is good, it’s really good. “In The Blood” is reminiscent of the introspective honesty in 2012’s “Born and Raised”, and dwells on struggles with self-doubt, fraternal love and depth of the soul. With lyrics like “How much of my mother has my mother left in me?/Will I get to love insanely to some degree? “, it may be the most personal song he has ever written. “Emoji Of A Wave” talks about the pangs of loneliness in a long-distance relationship amidst the possibility of growing apart. “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” with clever lines like “when the pastor asks the pews/for reasons not to marry you/I’ll keep my word in my seat” has to do with lingering memories of lover pasts. “Moving On And Getting Over”, a groovy post break-up song with a really catchy loop in its hook, explores a man struggling with his ex-lover’s emotional ghosts with lyrics like “for all my running i can’t understand/I’m one text away from getting back again.”
John Mayer is too smart for his own good on this album; too much sappiness here, too many guitar licks there. It doesn’t help that two-thirds of the track is talking about trying to recover from a breakup…”Still Feel Like Your Man” has John mulling over an ex with lyrics like “I still keep your shampoo in my shower/in case you want to wash your hair”, and the track “Rosie” shows saccharine-laced desperation with lines like “you don’t have to hide his things/I’m ready for the sorrow that tomorrow brings.”
Mayer’s guitar skills have been undeniable however. “Changing” sees him balance repetitive lyrics with a lovely guitar solo, and “Helpless” reminds you of the Continuum era, where the seven-time Grammy award winner thrilled audiences with jammers like “Gravity” and “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room.”
It’s hard to ignore the downright lazy songwriting in some of the tracks though. “Love On The Weekend”, the album’s first single, is ultimately radio-friendly and pop-directed, but you wonder how the Connecticut-born singer moved from “I will beg my way into your garden and break my way out when it rains” (I Don’t Trust Myself, 2006) to “I’m flying fast like a wanted man/I want you baby like you can’t understand”. Where did all the poetry and sophistication go? It was the one thing, besides his guitar-playing, that made him bearable to critics in the first place. “Roll It On Home” is a country-themed tune centred on a man drinking away his loneliness at a local bar, the helplessness of his situation captured in lyrics like “your last ten texts were with your ex and all of them were sent by you/but you still stare at your phone thinking that something is coming through.”
Ultimately, “The Search For Everything” is a welcome from Mayer’s folk rock, Neil Young – inspired era that heralded “Born and Raised” (2012) and “Paradise Valley” (2013). It’s a near-triumphant return to the pop/rock community, but fans would be wishing he came with more, given his immense talent. Critics wouldn’t be won over either, and it’s fair to say John Mayer has some catching up to do.
Stand-out Tracks: In The Blood, Moving On And Getting Over, Helpless.
Tracks That Should Have Never Been There: Love On The Weekend, Roll It On Home.
Review by Jerry Chiemeke