‘Sob Rock’ By John Mayer Review: Not Quite Worth The Tears

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'Sob Rock' By John Mayer Review: Not Quite Worth The Tears

There has always been a strange contrast between John Mayer as a public figure and John Mayer as a solo artist. In the decade following his 2001 multi-platinum debut album, “Room for Squares,” he was a highly visible celebrity who wrote an Esquire column, tried his hand at stand-up and became a gossip magazine for dating women even more famous. be than he was.

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In 2010, his propensity to talk casually caught up with him in a few interviews with Playboy and Rolling Stone, when he made widely condemned comments that were lazily and racially offensive. mr. Mayer lowered his profile considerably as he became more adventurous with his musical side projects. He spent much of the 2010s collaborating with others, most notably playing guitar and singing in Dead & Company, the touring offshoot of the Grateful Dead led by three members of the original band. But although Mr. Mayer is an exploratory collaborator, his solo work was safe and down-the-middle.

His 2006 album Continuum leaned toward jazz and soul, 2012’s Born and Raised leaned toward California folk pop, and 2017’s “The Search for Everything” leaned toward modern R&B, but these tilts in direction mattered little. the essential character of his music: mellow rock suitable for adult contemporary radio. mr. Mayer can’t help but make solidly written, expertly played songs that only occasionally leave a mark.

“Sob Rock” (Columbia), out Friday, is a deliberate attempt to capture the synth-tinged sound that veteran rockers made in the 1980s. In a June interview with the Journal, Mr. Mayer described the record as balm for a turbulent era. “There’s a safety blanket aspect to that sound that reminds me of a safer time,” he said. Although part of the album was recorded during the pandemic, the general approach was in effect in May 2018, when Mr. Mayer released the single “New Light”, co-written and produced by Ernest Wilson, known in the rap world as No ID. It is a resilient and effortlessly catchy song that is also a huge hit on streaming, reaching 500 million plays on Spotify. . Heard on this collection, it sets a high bar that none of the other nine songs can erase.

The cover of “Sob Rock, with its pastels and Mr. Mayer posed through blinds, is rich in historical detail. It suggests “Miami Vice” and the Michelob rock of Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Genesis, but the record only splatters in such overt references. “I had to figure out this genetic tightrope walk,” Mr Mayer told the blog Blackbird Spyplane in an interview earlier this month. “If it has too much retro DNA, two things happen: I lose interest and I Don’t believe it.” So the 80s-ness is there, but subtle. Mr. Mayer uses the sonic signifiers of the decade like spice – a pinch of digital reverb here, a shimmering chorus effect on his guitar there. listen to it a few times, the concept falls away and you have another pleasant and disappointing John Mayer LP.

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